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US Commission to hold hearing on religious freedom in India despite New Delhi rejects 'biased' report

The USCIRF report alleged that the Indian government has enacted and enforced discriminatory policies targeting religious minorities, including anti-conversion laws, cow slaughter laws, and legislation granting citizenship preferences based on religion.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Washington Published on: September 15, 2023 11:45 IST
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Image Source : TWITER/@USCIRF Representational Image

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has announced it will hold a hearing on religious freedom in India next week. Coming on the heels of two successful bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden -- the official State visit of PM Modi in Washington in June and a bilateral meeting in Delhi in September -- the USCIRF said the Congressional hearing was on how the US government can work with the Indian government to address violations.

Fernand de Varennes, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, has been invited to testify before the commission along with Tariq Ahmed, Foreign Law Specialist, Law Library of Congress; Sarah Yager, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch; Sunita Viswanath, executive director, Hindus for Human Rights and Irfan Nooruddin, Professor of Indian Politics at Georgetown University.

Report claims Indian govt targets minorities

PM Modi’s State visit to Washington DC reflected the close bilateral relationship between the US and India.

"However, over the last decade, the Indian government has enacted and enforced discriminatory policies targeting religious minorities, including anti-conversion laws, cow slaughter laws, legislation granting citizenship preferences based on religion, and restrictions on foreign funding for civil society organisations," the USCIRF said.

"Recent trends include the eruption of violence between Hindus and Muslims in Haryana in July and targeted attacks against Christian and Jewish minorities in Manipur, highlighting the need for new strategies to mitigate violence against religious minorities in India," it said.

Since 2020, the USCIRF has recommended that the US Department of State designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its "systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom", it said.

"Witnesses will discuss the Indian government’s legal framework and enforcement of discriminatory policies, explain current religious freedom conditions, and offer policy options for the US to work with India to combat abuses of religious freedom and related human rights in the country," the USCIRF said.

In May, India had rejected the report 

Earlier, in April this year, New Delhi rejected the report and called it "biased" as well as a "motivated" portrayal. Addressing a regular press conference in the national capital on May 3, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had asserted that the Commission continues to regurgitate such comments. He added New Delhi rejects the "misrepresentation of facts" which only serves to "discredit USCIRF itself".

Also, the spokesperson suggested the concerned organisation to develop a better understanding of India, its plurality and its democratic ethos.

"The US Commission on International Religious Freedom continues to regurgitate biased and motivated comments about India, this time in its 2023 annual report," he said. "We reject such misrepresentation of facts which only serves to discredit USCIRF itself," said Bagchi.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: India rejects US report on religious freedom: says 'Should develop better understanding of our ethos'

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