Hindu American Foundation slams USCIRF over anti-India report

Washington: The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom has put its credibility at stake by publishing a report critical of religious freedom in India by a Pakistan-origin author known for his anti-India stand and support to separatists, a top Hindu-American body has said.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) said by coming out with the report by Iqtidar Cheema, director for Institute for Leadership and Community Development, in Birmingham, England, the USCIRF has put its credibility at stake.

The report has alleged that religious minority communities and Dalits face discrimination and persecution in India. It claims there are constitutional provisions and state and national laws in India that do not comply with international standards of freedom of religion or belief.

In a blog post, HAF executive director Suhag Shukla wrote that USCIRF simply gave its imprimatur to the British activist Cheema.

“Cheema, a native of Pakistan, has been honoured by several Pakistani government bodies, and is true to Pakistan’s foreign policy goals as well,” Shukla wrote, alleging that the report was biased and motivated.

Shukla alleged that Cheema’s work provides cover to Pakistan’s long-standing support of a proxy war to separate Jammu and Kashmir from India.

“Not surprisingly then, this report fails to mention the plight of over 300,000 Kashmiri Hindu Pandits cleansed from their ancestral homeland in the Valley at the hands of Islamist radicals. Previous commission reports have ignored the same,” she said.

“Cheema is also an oft-quoted source to support various organisations that endorse a separatist movement calling for a separate Sikh state, Khalistan – a cause that the vast majority of Sikhs in India refuse to support,” she said.

“Khalistani terrorism led to an insurgency which left tens of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs dead in the Indian state of Punjab in the 1980s. This activism took its most bizarre and dangerous turn when Cheema addressed a crowd of Sikh separatists gathered in San Francisco calling for Khalistan and shouts supporting the Babbar Khalsa, a terrorist organisation banned by the UK and India,” Shukla said.

“Shockingly, for the first time in USCIRF’s history, the Commission makes the overtly Hinduphobic declaration that caste-based discrimination is rooted in Hindu scripture,” she said.

“Why would USCIRF launch a spirited defence of American churches shilling for religious converts in India? Why would USCIRF substantiate the horrendous, and easily refuted claim – one that evangelical churches make to goad converts away from Hinduism – that the scriptures of Hinduism not only condone, but divinely sanction the social evil of caste-based,” she alleged.

Shuka said USCIRF is the only governmental body to ever designate India, the world’s largest democracy and secular republic as a “Country of Particular Concern Watch list”, or “Tier 2” list in league with Afghanistan, Turkey, Russia and others.