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HomeIndiaIndian Minorities Foundation rebukes USCIRF report for 'distorting' India’s religious landscape

Indian Minorities Foundation rebukes USCIRF report for ‘distorting’ India’s religious landscape

New Delhi, June 27: The Indian Minorities Foundation (IMF) has issued a strong condemnation of a report prepared by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). In a statement released on Thursday, the IMF emphasised that USCIRF’s attempt to categorise India alongside authoritarian regimes such as Afghanistan, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, and China disregards and overlooks the country’s democratic structure, robust civil society, and rich pluralistic heritage.

“This mischaracterisation undermines USCIRF’s credibility and understanding of India’s religious freedom landscape,” the statement said. It also pointed out that the USCIRF has once again found itself on the wrong side of the world’s largest democracy with its most recent report attempting to designate India as a “country of particular concern (CPC)”. The IMF said the USCIRF’s ‘misdirected activism’ to target India has repeatedly failed to obtain the US State Department’s approval with the latter’s refusal to accord CPC designation since 2020. The IMF also asked whether the USCIRF is conducting itself as an agent of conflict rather than an instrument of harmony as it purportedly claims to be. “This question merits deeper examination,” the statement said.

The USCIRF in its report has again raised ‘concerns’ over religious freedom in India. Reacting to it, the IMF said that unlike the authoritarian regimes mentioned, Indian federalism with its autonomy to states on matters such as law enforcement gives different regions the constitutional freedom to formulate and enforce laws in a manner no different from the American federalism. “Flawed comparisons with non-democracies highlight the USCIRF’s failure to understand the nuanced reality of India’s religious freedom landscape and discredits genuine concerns about human rights violations globally,” said the IMF, adding, “It is puzzling that the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his remarks spoke of an increase in anti-conversion laws, while in reality no new laws were passed by any state during the period of focus of the report. His broad sweeping reference to hate speech is at odds with the kind of hateful speech targeted against India and its elected leaders that routinely emanates from North America these days.” “This hateful speech includes instances that have glorified violence and celebrated the assassination of a former Prime Minister of India. It would appear perhaps that the line blurs between free speech and hate speech depending on the country of origin,” the IMF said.

It also said that unsubstantiated references in his remarks to demolitions of homes and places of worship for members of minority communities fail to note that the few stray instances of demolitions have little to do with religion and everything to do with illegal constructions in violation of the rule of law. The IMF said the USCIRF report seems to be unduly influenced by NGOs and activists who have been at the receiving end of regulations that have nothing to do with religion or religious identity. According to the IMF statement, by mixing up the secular issue of strict monitoring of foreign funding to NGOs and activists under FCRA regulations with allegations of violence against minorities, the USCIRF report exposes itself as batting for foreign funding to NGO activism in India. The IMF said that ironically, the report’s preamble dedicates an entire section to what it labels as ‘malign foreign influence’. Perhaps the irony was lost on the authors that USCIRF’s own actions in support of foreign funding of NGO activists would be no less an instance of “maligning foreign influence”, the IMF said.

By giving a communal twist to the ethnic violence in Manipur, the USCIRF report crosses a very dangerous line with its patently false and communal labeling of Meitis as Hindus and Kukis as Christians to further exacerbate the ethnic faultlines in Manipur, the IMF said. Two issues make it abundantly clear that the USCIRF’s value judgments on religious freedom have no respect for India’s unity and territorial integrity, it added. The first has to do with the comments on Kashmir in the context of Article 370. The USCIRF has failed to recognise that the revocation of Article 370 was aimed at integrating Jammu and Kashmir more closely with the rest of India, fostering economic development, and ensuring equal rights for all residents, the IMF argued. The move was also upheld by the Supreme Court, reflecting its constitutionality while the Election Commission has already started the process of holding elections in the region as a step towards restoring statehood, the IMF statement said. The second has to do with the reference to the Khalistani movement and the USCIRF parroting a new catchphrase that is routinely being used by the advocates of Khalistan — transnational repression.

It is almost as if the world’s largest democracy is obliged to patronise those who advocate destabilising India’s territorial integrity from beyond its borders, said the IMF, adding, “By seeking to falsely frame the issue as one of religious freedom, the USCIRF’s comments sum up all that is wrong with its mission.” “By focusing disproportionately on perceived negatives and ignoring the broader context of religious freedom and social harmony within the world’s largest democracy, the USCIRF risks exacerbating tensions rather than fostering understanding and resolution,” the IMF said.

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