Religious freedom and the human rights related to it are threatened in India for several reasons, including the government policies failure to protect minorities, a United States panel said on Tuesday.
The statement was made in a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent American government agency that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion and makes policy suggestions to the White House.
The panel reiterated its recommendation from April that the United States government should designate India as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in or tolerating systematic violations of religious freedom.
The commission, in its Tuesday’s report, said that in 2022, governments at the national, state and local levels promoted policies that targeted religious conversion, interfaith relationships, and cow slaughter. It also cited the usage of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to suppress critical voices, especially religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf.
“The BJP-led government and leaders at the national, state and local level have advocated, instituted, and enforced sectarian policies seeking to establish India as an overtly Hindu state, contrary to India’s secular foundation and at grave danger to India’s religious minorities,” the commission said.
The report said that government officials and non-state actors continue to use social media and other platforms to spread hatred and disinformation against minorities.
The commission also mentioned the Karnataka government’s ban on wearing the hijab in educational institutions, and protests on the matter. It said that a High Court ruling upholding the ban is likely to further deepen religious tensions.
Further, the report said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens “could subject Indian Muslims and others not covered to statelessness, deportation, and prolonged detention”. It added that the National Register of Citizen process in Assam has aggravated tensions between ethnic Assamese Hindus and Bengali-descent Muslims.
In July, the Indian government had rejected the findings of the commission made in April, calling them biased and inaccurate.
“These comments reflect a severe lack of understanding of India and its constitutional framework, its plurality and its democratic ethos,” the Ministry of External Affairs had said. “Regrettably, USCIRF continues to misrepresent facts time and again in its statements and reports in pursuance of its motivated agenda.”