A Hindu body in Washington has called the USCIRF report on religious freedom a work of “Hinduphobic” commission members while Muslim and Christian groups hailed the observations made in it, demanding that the US declare India as a “country of particular concern”.
The US Commission for International Religious Freedom or USCIRF report recommended to the Biden Administration to designate India, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and 11 other nations as “countries of particular concern” in the context of religious freedom.
The recommendations are not binding on the US government.
HinduPACT, an initiative of the World Hindu Council of America, in a statement alleged that the USCIRF has been taken over by “Indophobic and Hinduphobic members”.
The American Muslim Institution (AMI) and its associate organisations applaud the USCIRF recommendation, saying religious freedom conditions in India “significantly worsened” in 2021.
The Federation of Indian-American Christian Organisations and the Indian-American Muslim Council in separate statements reportedly applauded the USCIRF recommendation.
During a special virtual congressional briefing, a day after the release of the report, USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava had alleged that Indian government officials were tolerating and engaging in religious persecution of Muslims and Christians with prolific mob violence.
India has dismissed such allegations. Senior US government officials have told lawmakers that India has a vibrant civil society, an independent judiciary and a mature functional democracy, which has enough mechanisms to address the internal human rights concerns if any.
HinduPACT in a statement slammed the USCIRF.
“This year’s report follows a pattern of reports that have appeared in previous years. Based on publicly available information on topics like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and Kashmir, the USCIRF report is a copy-and-paste of talking points peddled by an agglomeration of Islamist groups working with radical Islamist group Justice for All on whose platform USCIRF commissioners appear regularly,” alleged Utsav Chakrabarti, executive director of HinduPACT.
“It is now obvious that the USCIRF has been taken over by the Indophobic and Hinduphobic members. Many of these members have attended India and Hindu bashing events. It is no surprise that their selective observations are meant to promote a political agenda and further their electoral reach in select communities,” said Ajay Shah, president of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA).
In a statement, Koshy George, Federation of Indian-American Christian Organisations, recommended that the President and the US Administration accept the USCIRF recommendations and name India as a “country of particular concern” while it could still help protect American interests in that region for the long-term.
“This could also go a long way in helping the Union of India remain a functioning liberal democracy with respect for all religious and linguistic minorities,” he said.
Indian-American Muslim Council executive director Rasheed Ahmed said they commend the USCIRF for “refusing to cave in to the lobbying of US-based right-wing Hindu nationalist groups and making clear that the ground reality of minorities in India is of constant harassment and violence”.
“Given the damning information presented in this report, US State Department officials must now act on the recommendations made by the USCIRF by officially designating India as a CPC and by imposing targeted sanctions upon the Indian government to hold officials responsible for encouraging hate,” said Syed Afzal Ali, president of the IAMC.
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