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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

US commission says religious freedom in India deteriorating further

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US commission on Wednesday recommended for the second year in a row that India be placed on a blacklist for religious freedom, saying treatment of minorities had deteriorated further.

The Indian government last year responded angrily to the call by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and there remains little chance that the State Department will take its advice and condemn India, an increasingly close US ally.

The commission, which offers recommendations but does not set US policy, said in its annual report that “religious freedom conditions in India continued their negative trajectory.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government “promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom,” it said.

It pointed to allegations of police complicity in violence against Muslims during deadly riots last year in New Delhi and continued concerns over a citizenship law championed by Modi that critics say defines Muslims as non-Indian.

It also said the Indian government has been stifling dissent and voiced concern over the rise of restrictions on inter-faith marriages including in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh.

The commission recommended that the State Department designate India as a “country of particular concern”.

Other nations already on the State Department’s blacklist — which paves the way for sanctions if they do not improve their records — are Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The recommendation on India drew a dissent from one commissioner, Johnnie Moore, an appointee of former president Donald Trump.

Moore in a statement said India was “at a crossroads” but noted that it was the world’s largest democracy with constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

“Of all the countries in the world, India should not be a ‘country of particular concern,’” he said.

“It is diversity personified and its religious life has been its greatest historic blessing.”

In addition to India, the commission called on the State Department to add Russia, Syria and Vietnam to the blacklist.

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