USCIRF accuses India of violating religious freedom, MEA rejects

NEW DELHI: 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“.

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 sharply to the US government panel’s 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”, the spokesperson 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.”

Speaking to media, USCIRF vice-chairman Nadine Maeinza said, “Perhaps the steepest and most alarming deterioration of religious freedom conditions, in 2019, was in India, the largest democracy in the world.”