International Religious Freedom Report 2022: India’s designation by the USCIRF

What is the News?

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom(USCIRF) has released the International Religious Freedom Report 2022.

What is the International Religious Freedom Report?

Released by: USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body separate from the U.S. Department of State. 

Purpose: The report assesses religious freedom violations and progress in 27 countries during the calendar year 2021 and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy. 

The focus of the report: The Report’s primary focus is on two groups of countries:

– “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)” is a designation of a nation engaged in severe violations of religious freedom under IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act of 1998).

– A “Special Watch List” country is one that is deemed not to meet all of the CPC criteria but engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom.

Note: The recommendations of USCIRF are not binding on the US government.

What are the key findings of the report?

Country of Particular Concern (CPC): USCIRF has recommended for the second year in the row to put India on the Countries of Particular Concern(CPCs) list for the worst violations of religious freedoms in 2021.

The other countries under this category are Afghanistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

Special Watch List: Algeria, Cuba, and Nicaragua were placed in 2021. Others include Azerbaijan, CAR, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

What are the concerns raised by the report on India? 

The report highlighted that a) The Indian government had “repressed critical voices” especially minority communities and individuals reporting on them. b) Non-Governmental Organizations(NGOs) are facing challenges, especially regarding foreign funding. c) Issues with anti-conversion laws: In October 2021, Karnataka’s government ordered a survey of churches and priests in the state and authorized police to conduct a door-to-door inspection to find Hindus who have converted to Christianity.

What is the likely impact of the USCIRF’s recommendation on India?

The U.S State Department hasn’t acted on such recommendations so far. But India may come under greater pressure this time given its divergence from the US  position on the Ukraine war and refusal to endorse U.S.-backed resolutions against Russia at the UN.

Source: This post is based on the article “India’s designation by the USCIRF” published in The Hindu on 27th April 2022.

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