The Government on Tuesday lambasted the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for placing India among the list of countries which violate religious freedom.
The USCIRF has designated India as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ on religious freedom alongside Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and others.
The 14 countries placed in the list of ‘Particular Concern’, according to the USCIRF, are those whose “governments engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom”.
Countries of Particular Concern in #USCIRFAnnualReport2020: Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) April 28, 2020
The USCIRF is an independent federal government entity set up by the US Congress to monitor and report on religious freedom in the world.
“We are seeing impunity for violence by non-state actors committed against religious minorities,” USCIRF chair Tony Perkins said about India.
Reacting strongly on the move, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “We reject the observations on India in the USCIRF annual report.”
Describing the USCIRF’s comments against India as “biased and tendentious” and “not new”, Srivastava said, “But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels. It has not been able to carry its own Commissioners in its endeavour.”
The Government said that it regards it as “an organisation of particular concern and will treat it accordingly.”
The strong objection came after the USCIRF annual report includes particular criticism of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The US body, in its report, has accused the Indian government of creating “a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities” and also called for “targeted sanctions against Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom”.
“In 2019, following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) re-election in May, the national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims,” the report said.
“Home Minister Amit Shah referred to migrants as ‘termites’ to be eradicated… in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath pledged ‘revenge’ against anti-CAA protestors and stated they should be fed ‘bullets not biryani’,” it added.
“In February 2020, three days of violence erupted in Delhi with mobs attacking Muslim neighborhoods. There were reports of Delhi police, operating under the Home Ministry’s authority, failing to halt attacks and even directly participating in the violence,” the report said.
Two of the nine members of the USCIRF also expressed dissent over the USCIRF recommendation to place India in the CPC and a third member expressed his personal view on India, news agency PTI reported.
“India does not belong to the same category as authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea. India is the largest democratic nation in the world, where the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) has been challenged openly by the opposition Congress Party and lawmakers, civil society, and various groups,” said Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee.
Earlier on April 15, India had slammed the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for its “misguided” reports on the professional medical protocols followed to deal with the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in the country.
The USCIRF had expressed concerns over India’s manner of handling Coronavirus cases after a media report emerged stating that a hospital in Ahmedabad has “split its COVID-19 patients on the basis of religion”.
In strong words, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava condemned the reports and said the USCIRF “must stop adding religious colour to our national goal of fighting the pandemic and distract from larger efforts”.
“As if its peremptory commentary on religious freedom in India is not enough, the USCIRF is now spreading misguided reports on the professional medical protocols followed to deal with spread of COVID-19 in India,” the MEA spokesperson said in a statement.