U.S. Panel Lists India Among Nations With Waning Religious Freedom
Demonstrators hold up flags and placards while gathering to protest against the Citizen Amendment Act in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: T.Narayan/Bloomberg)

U.S. Panel Lists India Among Nations With Waning Religious Freedom

(Bloomberg) -- A U.S. government commission has recommended adding India to a list of countries with a worrying record on religious freedom for minorities. India has rejected the report’s observations.

India has been listed, along with China, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, among 14 nations “of particular concern” by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in its annual report released on Tuesday.

The country took a “sharp downward turn in 2019” as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims,” the commission said.

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission.

Three members of the commission dissented with the decision to add India to the list. India’s foreign ministry in a statement rejected the commission’s report and called its comments “biased and tendentious.”

“We regard it as an organization of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” India’s foreign ministry said.

In its report, the USCIRF listed policies, including a new religion-based law that fast tracks Indian citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, which has led to nationwide protests. The 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,” it said.

The panel proposed a range of measures against Indian officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom, including targeted sanctions, banning their entry into U.S. and freezing their assets. These are unlikely to be followed as the comments aren’t binding on the Trump administration, Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said in a tweet.

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