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“Most alarming deterioration in religious freedom in India”, notes USCIRF report

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its annual report, has noted that India has witnessed the “most alarming deterioration in terms of religious freedom”.

The report presents a scathing opinion on India along with criticizing the recently introduced Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The report notes:

India took a sharp downward turn in 2019. The national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims. Most notably, it enacted the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which provides a fast track to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan already residing in India. According to government officials’ statements, this law is meant to provide protection for listed non-Muslim religious communities—but not for Muslims—against exclusion from a nationwide National Register of Citizens and the resulting detention, deportation, and potential statelessness.

Nadine Maenza, vice chair of the USCIRF, says that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in India “potentially exposes millions of Muslims to detention, deportation, and statelessness when the government completes its planned nationwide National Register of Citizens”.

It is worth noting that the report has taken a particularly harsh stance against India. The report also recommends to the US Government that India should be designated as a “country of particular concern (CPC)”.

The national and various state governments also allowed nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities to continue with impunity, and engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence against them. Based on these developments, in this report USCIRF recommends CPC designation for India.

The report also recommends adding the following fourteen countries to the CPC list: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

Even though the report also includes Pakistan in its CPC list, the USCIRF also notes that “the government (of Pakistan) has been willing to engage in dialogue about how Religious Freedom concerns can be addressed.”

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