WASHINGTON: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has re-entered India into its ‘Country of Particular Concern’ list due to the policies and actions of the Modi Government towards the Muslim community.
“Perhaps the steepest, and most alarming deterioration in religious freedom conditions is in India,” USCIRF Vice Chair said after the release of the Commission’s annual report.
The report further suggested the names of 13 other countries to the State Department for selecting them as “countries of particular concern” because their governments indulge in or tolerate “systematic ongoing, egregrious violations.”
These include nine that were classified as CPCs by the State Department in December last year, namely Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Though India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam include five others.
“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,” the Commission’s Vice Chair, Nadine Maenza, added.
Expanding on the policies of Modi’s government in recent months, which explicitly targeted the Muslim community, the study featured derogatory statements of various BJP leaders against minority communities.
The report recommended that the US government implement targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for serious violations of religious freedom by freezing the assets of those persons and/or banning their entry into the US under financial and visa authorities relevant to human rights, citing particular violations of religious freedom.
The USCIRF Commissioner appreciated Pakistan’s efforts saying, “One of the things that has been important for us with Pakistan, is that the government has been willing to engage in dialogue about how religious freedom concerns can be addressed.”
The 2020 Annual Report also recommended 15 countries to be put on the State Department’s Special Watch List for serious violations instead of using their own “Tier 2” tier as stated in past cases. Those include four who were placed on the list by the State Department last year.
In a related development, Kuwait called on the International Cooperation Organization to take ‘urgent measures’ to safeguard the rights of Indian Muslims.
Kuwait has been seeking mediation by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to counter anti-Muslim sentiments in India.
In a statement released Monday, the Kuwaiti Council of Ministers’ General Secretariat expressed its “deep concern” over the treatment of Indian Muslims and called on the OIC to take “necessary and urgent measures” to “preserve Muslims’ rights.”
Abdullah al-Shoreka, a minister at the Awqaf and Islamic affairs ministry in Kuwait, tweeted that it was time for Muslims to speak out against the oppression of their co-religionists.
“Did those who commit crimes against humanity against Muslims in India and violate their rights think that Muslims in the world will remain silent about these crimes and do not move politically, legally and economically against them?” he said.
The statement follows remarks made last month in which Kuwait raised questions about the country’s treatment of Muslims.
In the Indian capital Delhi, riots erupted in February, leading to hundreds of deaths, mainly Muslims targeted by Hindu nationalists.
The riot came in the aftermath of the passage of a divisive citizenship law by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has excluded Muslims and challenged India’s secularism ideology.
Witnesses said Delhi police did nothing to interfere in the first place as crowds fought running fights, with gangs armed with swords and weapons setting thousands of property and vehicles on fire.
Muslims were also the target of widespread conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in India.
The Indian government blamed last month in New Delhi a mass meeting of Muslims for helping to spread the virus, though members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared in interviews describing the meeting as “corona terrorism.”
False video clips aimed at showing Muslims spitting on security officials have contributed to the spread of a “CoronaJihad” hashtag on Twitter, despite the debunked images.