USCIRF Report on India

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In its annual report released recently, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the State Department for the third straight year to place India on the US list of “countries of particular concern”. The bipartisan panel recommends but does not set policy, and there is virtually no chance the State Department will follow its lead on India, an increasingly close US ally. But the lower ranking for the ally amounts to a stark show of disapproval of India’s divisive new citizenship law, which the United Nations has called “fundamentally discriminatory”. Trump declined to criticize the law during his February visit to India, where his meeting with Modi was punctuated by the worst violence in decades in New Delhi, in which 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. The commission, by contrast, is empowered as an independent arbiter to look only at nations’ religious freedom records, apart from their relationship with the US. It called on the US to impose punitive measures, including visa bans on Indian officials believed responsible and grant funding to civil society groups that monitor hate speech. The commission said Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which won a convincing election victory last year, “allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.” It pointed to comments by Home Minister Amit Shah, who notoriously referred to mostly Muslim migrants as “termites,” and to a citizenship law that has triggered nationwide protests. It also highlighted the revocation of the autonomy of Kashmir, which was India’s only Muslim-majority state, and allegations that Delhi police turned a blind eye to mobs that attacked Muslim neighborhoods in February this year.

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