Urge independent commission to withstand pressure to dilute its reporting on religious persecution in India
Several US based civil rights and faith groups have asked the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to again recommend Indiaâ€™s inclusion among the worldâ€™s worst persecutors of religious minorities.
In a letter to the commission on Sunday, these organizations to recommend again as it did in its last two reports that the US State Department designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
Both the Trump and the Biden Administrations did not accept its recommendation in 2020 and 2021 reports to designate India as CPC, along with China, Pakistan, Iran, Vietnam, Nigeria among others.
The groups claimed in a press release issued ahead of the April 25 release of USCIRFâ€™s Annual Report for 2022 that US-based Hindu nationalists were pressurizing the independent commission to dilute its reporting on religious persecution in India.
â€œIt is clear that those seeking to obfuscate the reality of Indiaâ€™s persecution of its religious minorities are now using intense lobbying and combative communication with the goal of preventing USCIRF from recommending Indiaâ€™s designation as a CPC for the third straight year,â€ the groups wrote.
â€œWe have also learned that such pressure includes attempts to influence USCIRF Commissioners and officials to exclude even a mention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2022 report.â€
The groups urged the commission â€œto not allow Hindu supremacist individuals or organizations to influence the integrity of USCIRF in general and your annual report in particular.”
â€œAs you must know, religious persecution in India has only escalated since last yearâ€™s publication of USCIRFâ€™s Annual Report 2021,â€ the letter alleged.
â€œMore than ever before, Muslims, Christians and Dalits are under intense attacks and are experiencing massive human rights abuses as well as diminishing space for religious freedom,â€ it said.
Thousands of Muslims,Christians, and human rights advocates had been jailed under â€œdraconian lawsâ€ such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the groups said.
â€œKarnataka, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, three states under BJP rule, have passed highly discriminatory laws targeting these two minority communities in the name of anti-conversion,â€ the letter said.
â€œChurches and mosques are vandalized and outrightly demolished by officials, as happened near the Indian capital of New Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh.â€
â€œIn December 2021, repeated calls were made by saffron-robed Hindu â€˜monksâ€™ calling for a genocide of millions of Muslims, for sexual violence against Muslim women, and much more,” the letter said.
â€œThe past year also saw the highest attacks on record on Indian Christians, including large-scale assault and vandalism on Christmas Day, December 25.â€
â€œThe Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India recorded 505 incidents of hate against Christians in 2021, including threats and harassment, physical violence, false accusations of conversion, desecration of houses of worship, arbitrary arrests, hate campaigns, and more. USCIRF must not ignore the significant decline of democracy in India that is accompanied by most horrific forms of religious persecution,” it said.
The groups urged the commission â€œto duly record in your Annual Report 2022 the role of the Modi Government, the RSS, the BJP, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the various state governments, especially in Assam and Uttar Pradesh that are BJP-ruled, in the sharp escalation in the violence against Indiaâ€™s religious minorities.â€
â€œWe urge you to recommend this year, as you did in 2020 and 2021, that the US Department of State designate India as a Country of Particular Concern, and sanction officials and organizations that are involved in religious persecution. Indiaâ€™s persecuted millions are counting on the international community to defend their right to life and dignity. They desperately need USCIRF to play its part in this regard,â€ the letter said.
Signatories to the letter include Indian American Muslim Council; Hindus for Human Rights; Jubilee Campaign USA; International Christian Concern; India Civil Watch International; Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations; Dalit Solidarity Forum in the USA; Cameroon American Council; Asian Children Education Fellowship; Association of Indian Muslims of America; International Society for Peace and Justice; Justice For All; Dar El Eman; Coeur dâ€™Alene Bible Church; New Life Church; Fresh Heart Ministries; Director of Governmental Affairs, Greentree Global; Pokane Fatherhood Initiative; Indian Muslim Association of Carolinas; Christian Freedom International; and International Asian Christian Front.
Read: What the 2020 USCIRF annual report says about India (April 28, 2020)