India Dismisses USCIRF Report, Labels Accusations of Discrimination as Biased

Featured & Cover India Dismisses USCIRF Report Labels Accusations of Discrimination as Biased

India has firmly dismissed the recent findings of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of promoting discriminatory nationalist policies. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal, labeled the USCIRF as biased and propagandist, expressing little hope for the organization to grasp India’s diverse, pluralistic, and democratic essence. Jaiswal emphasized this stance during a press briefing, asserting, “We really have no expectation that USCIRF will even seek to understand India’s diverse, pluralistic and democratic ethos. Their efforts to interfere in the largest electoral exercise of the world will never succeed.”

USCIRF, established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, comprises Commissioners appointed by the President and bipartisan leadership from both chambers of Congress. The Commission’s recent report accused India’s government, particularly the BJP, of exacerbating communal tensions and neglecting to address violence disproportionately impacting various religious and ethnic communities.

“In 2023, religious freedom conditions in India continued to deteriorate,” the USCIRF report stated. It criticized the BJP-led government for reinforcing discriminatory policies, fostering divisive rhetoric, and failing to address communal violence, particularly affecting Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Jews, and indigenous Adivasi communities. The report highlighted the continued enforcement of laws such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and anti-conversion and cow slaughter laws, which allegedly led to the arbitrary detention and targeting of religious minorities and their advocates.

Moreover, USCIRF’s report raised concerns about media and NGO freedom, citing instances of strict monitoring under FCRA regulations. It pointed to the suspension of the FCRA license of the Centre for Policy Research, an NGO focused on social issues and minority discrimination, as well as raids on the offices and homes of journalists, including Teesta Setalvad, known for her reporting on anti-Muslim violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

India’s response to the USCIRF report underscores the ongoing tensions between the Indian government and international organizations regarding religious freedom and human rights. The rejection of USCIRF’s findings reflects India’s assertion of sovereignty and resistance to external scrutiny, particularly from entities perceived as biased or politically motivated. As India continues to navigate complex religious and social dynamics, its relationship with international bodies like USCIRF remains contentious, with divergent perspectives on issues of religious freedom and minority rights.

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