The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has requested that India be designated as a “country of particular concern” due to persistent violations.
The USCIRF made the suggestion in its report, which analyses the deterioration of religious freedom conditions in India.
The Indian government “at the national, state, and local levels promoted and enforced religiously discriminatory policies, including laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relationships, the wearing of hijabs, and cow slaughter, which negatively impact Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Adivasis (indigenous peoples and scheduled tribes),” according to the report.
The national government also continued to silence critical voices, including religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf, it said, including through surveillance, harassment, property demolition, and detention under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and targeting nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
Violent attacks were also carried out across India in the guise of defending cows from slaughter or transport, both of which are illegal in 18 states.
Violence against Christians, Muslims, and Dalits has been reported in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi, according to the report, which adds: “In August, BJP member Gyan Dev Ahuja was recorded publicly calling for his listeners to ‘kill anyone involved in cow slaughter’.”
It stated that multiple homes, including places of worship, were damaged in largely Muslim and Christian neighborhoods. According to the research, social media platforms are also propagating hate speech and inciting violence against religious minorities.
“Designate India as a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA),” it stated in its recommendations to the State Department.
“Advance human rights for all religious communities in India and promote religious freedom, dignity, and interfaith dialogue through bilateral engagement and multilateral forums,” the report advised.
It also promoted for targeted sanctions against Indian government institutions and officials responsible for serious abuses of religious freedom, such as freezing their assets and/or restricting their admission into the US under human rights-related financial and visa authorities.