Designate India as ‘Country of Particular Concern’: Indian American Muslim Council to USCIRF

Hyderabad: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has been urged by dozens of international civil rights organizations and hundreds of individuals, to recommend the US State Department and designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) for “rapidly escalating persecution of religious minorities”. 

In the letter sent on 12th April to USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin and eight other Commissioners, the signees said, “the behaviour” of India’s federal and state governments is enabling violation of religious freedom. The violations had “spectacularly worsened” since last year, when USCIRF had the first recommendation that India be designated as CPC.

“Indeed the reasons for designating India as a CPC are more compelling now by an order of magnitude than ever before, and the situation is set to get worse without significant international pressure,” the letter said. The letter was sent days ahead of the USCIRF’s upcoming 2021 Annual Report which is scheduled to be released on 21st April, said a press release from the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) on Wednesday.

According to the IAMC, the letter was signed by Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Indian American Muslim Council, Church of Scientology National Affairs Office, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, Dalit Solidarity Forum, American Muslim Institution, American Sikh Council, Center for Pluralism, Global Christian Ministers Federation, India Civil Watch International, International Organization to Preserve Human Rights, International Society for Peace and Justice, Justice For All, Just Law International Parity, Plateau State Youth Council, and Progressive India Collective Voices for Freedom. 

In the past, the USCIRF had recommended last year to designate India as CPC for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined under the Internationational Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).” Former President Doland Trump’s administration had, however, declined to designate India as CPC, claiming that India’s worsening religious freedom was due to non-state actors and not by the government.

The letter said “We hope that this letter shows that state actors are playing a central role in India’s declining religious freedom and that the 2021 ANNUAL report will make this clear.”

Citing key features of the deteriorations in religious persecution in 202, the letter mentioned the anti-Muslim violence in Delhi in February 202 killed over 50 people. The letter said “In its aftermath, the Delhi Police failed to arrest the Hindu perpetrators who led the violence and instead arrested hundreds of Muslims, accusing them of the anti-Muslim violence.”

The letter also said that investigations by Amnesty India and the Polis Project confirmed that the “Delhi Police were themselves complicit and an active participant in that violence.” Yet, the Indian Government had “refused to open any investigation” into their role. Delhi Police had also failed to arrest leaders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including two federal legislators, who had incited the violence. “When a Delhi judge ordered that he (Mishra) be charged, the judge was transferred overnight.”

The letter also mentioned that India’s Christians suffered “225 incidents of religiously motivated violence” in the first ten months of 2020, many at hands of vigilante mobs. “At least eight incidents were recorded in two weeks after the nationwide lockdown. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, anti-Christian violence rose from 147 in 2014, when Mr Modi became Prime Minister to 328 in 2019.

The letter also mentioned 83-year-old Fr. Stan Swamy, a prominent Indian Jesuit priest who ails from Parkinson’s disease and has been imprisoned on the basis of tampered evidence. He has also been denied bail.

Elaborating further, on the continued persecution of minorities, the letter highlighted the increasing criminalization of marriage between Muslim men and Hindu women, with Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh joining the list of states that had passed the so-called “love jihad” laws. It said “nearly one in four Indians” now lived under such laws. Karnataka and Assam were also legislating similar laws, while Gujarat and Haryana had announced their intention to draft similar legislation. The BJP had also added love jihad laws to its campaign slogans in Kerala and West Bengal, the letter said.

 “We hope that USCIRF will continue to powerfully speak the truth on India and recommend this year, too, that the US Government designate India as a CPC,” it added