USCIRF’s International Religious Freedom Report: Present imperfect – Irrespective of what the USCIRF says, India must review its rights record

Source: The post is based on the article “Present imperfect – Irrespective of what the USCIRF says, India must review its rights record” published in The Hindu on 4th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.

Relevance: About USCIRF’s International Religious Freedom Report.

News: For the fourth consecutive year, the government rejected the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) latest report, calling it “biased and motivated”.

What is the USCIRF’s International Religious Freedom Report?

Read here: International Religious Freedom Report

About the latest USCIRF’s International Religious Freedom Report 2023

Like the previous one, this one also designated India as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) for its “worsening” record on religious freedoms.

The report has said that the Indian government is “promoting and enforcing religiously discriminatory policies”, naming laws that deal with conversion, interfaith relationships, wearing the hijab and cow slaughter, as well as the CAA and the NRC.

According to the report, all of these have impacted minorities including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Adivasis (indigenous peoples and Scheduled Tribes) negatively.

The report has criticised the U.S. State Department for not having designated India as a CPC, and has called for sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials.

Note: The U.S. State Department imposed sanctions only once in 2005 in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

What are the concerns associated with the USCIRF’s International Religious Freedom Report?

a) The process the USCIRF follows is non-inclusive, b) The organisation does not study the state of religious freedoms inside the U.S. This suggests a double standard and c) Its recommendations hold no influence within India. Instead, the reports are meant only for the U.S. government to deliberate on, and accept or dismiss.

India is a secular, inclusive and pluralistic democracy. The Centre may well consider an internal review of its conduct and the direction it hopes to lead India on issues such as religious freedoms and rights.

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