A reputed global Christian organization has named Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the world’s seven biggest persecutors of religious minorities and called for the U.S. government to impose visa and economic sanctions on India to pressure it to end that persecution.
In a report, “2021 Persecutor of the Year Awards,” released here this month, the International Christian Concern (ICC) clubbed the “Sangh Parivar,” India’s Hindu extremist movement that informs Modi’s ideology and policies, with the Taliban and the Boko Haram, and named India as one of the world’s seven biggest persecutors.
The Modi administration had overseen “a massive cultural shift” in India from a pluralistic society to Hindu nationalism, and “consistently punished all forms of dissent,” cracking down on NGOs seeking to hold it accountable, the ICC report said.“The U.S. and its allies should consider economic and visa sanctions against key decision-makers in the Modi administration,” the report said.
Also, the U.S. Congress should designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations,” and also “emphasize improving religious freedom conditions at the national level with India in any future strategic or economic partnerships.”
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to designate India as CPC, rejecting a recommendation from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Numerous organizations have condemned that decision.
Apart from Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also joined the Rogue’s Gallery of the world’s seven biggest persecutors. The others on that list include Chinese President Xi Jinping and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un.
The others besides India on the country list include Nigeria, China, Myanmar and Pakistan. The ICC and the Indian American Muslim Council collaborate in the pursuit of their advocacy towards ending religious persecution in India.
The Modi administration “frequently looked away” as its Hindu extremist allies “violently targeted” religious minorities, the report said. Modi “actively suppresses dissent through his administration and fails to hold persecutors accountable. He has sent a message throughout India that his administration will tolerate the persecution of Christians.”
Modi’s “knowing inaction” to end persecution was the “single most significant contributing factor to the dire state of religious freedom in India… that allows Hindu radicals to persecute India’s Christian minority with impunity,” the report said. There were “virtually limitless reports” of persecution of pastors, new or lifelong Christians, and whole churches by Indian officials and police. “Hindu extremists who commit acts of vandalism, violence, and even murder frequently go un-prosecuted.”
India was also “hostile” to critics such as Amnesty International, which it accused of violating foreign funding laws, just as it accuses Christian ministries, and forced it to shut operations in India. It was widely believed, the report said, that “this act was politically motivated to silence Amnesty’s criticism of the Indian government’s abuses.”
The ICC said the “Sangh Parivar’s… single ideology” of Hindutva had “a single agenda: to make India a Hindu nation,” and establish a “theocratic Hindu-majority state where religious minorities, including Christians, are relegated to second class status.”The establishment of such a state would be a “complete rejection of India’s founding principles, which provide religious freedom and equal protection to all religious groups.”
The leader of this Sangh Parivar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), “fuels a religiously intolerant narrative that views all non-Indic faiths, like Christianity and Islam, as foreign and something to be feared,” the ICC said. The RSS demonized Christians and other religious minorities through “hateful narratives, instigating violence in the streets” and used such narratives to advocate for laws and policies that discriminated against religious minorities.
The RSS’s estimated over six million members across India in over 50,000 locations meet daily and do martial arts training which they use “against religious minorities.” Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the RSS’s political wing, used “hateful narratives” for political victories to establish India as a Hindu nation, the ICC said. The BJP used “political support garnered by these narratives” to pass discriminatory laws.
“Anti-conversion laws and cow slaughter bans name just a few of the laws and policies the BJP enacts as a part of their nationalist agenda,” the report said. “These laws also provide a legal cover under which street thugs can attack Christians with impunity.”
Another organization is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which “mobilizes resources within and outside India to support the Hindutva movement” and falsely accused Christian educational and health institutions of converting Hindus to Christianity, sowing a narrative that there was a conspiracy led by “Western agencies” to take over India.
“These narratives only help fuel the fires of intolerance against Christians and other religious minorities, justifying violence and discriminatory laws and policies.” The Bajrang Dal, the Sangh Parivar’s youth wing, was mobilized “as foot soldiers” to enforce the Hindutva ideology on the street attacking Christians and their places of worship, and holding rallies against Christians. “In recent years, the severity of attacks by the Bajrang Dal has increased even to the extent of targeted killings,” the ICC said.
Anti-conversion laws, forced conversions to Hinduism, blasphemy laws, state-sanctioned impunity, social boycotts, and government restrictions on foreign funding were means to target and persecute India’s Christians, the report said.
The ICC report was released by USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza and ICC President Jeff King. IAMC’s Advocacy Director Ajit Sahi joined in releasing the report.