Government targeted those documenting information about attacks on Muslims, Christians, other religious minorities.
In 2021, the Indian government “repressed critical voices — especially religious minorities and those reporting on and advocating for them”, a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has claimed. The report has also asked the US state department to designate India as a “country of particular concern”.
The report, which was released on Monday, “monitors and reports on religious freedom abroad” to give “policy recommendations” to the president, and other government actors such as the secretary of state and the Congress.
Apart from India, the 100-page report has findings on 15 other countries, including Afghanistan, China, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and North Korea, among others.
Under its key findings, the report mentions the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the sedition law to “create an increasing climate of intimidation and fear in an effort to silence anyone speaking out against the government”.
The report goes on to cite the custodial death of Father Stan Swamy and the detention of human rights advocate Khurram Parvez. “The government also broadly targeted individuals documenting or sharing information about violence against Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities…UAPA complaints were filed against individuals for tweeting about attacks on mosques in Tripura,” it reads.
“The government arrested, filed complaints against, and launched criminal investigations into journalists and human rights advocates documenting religious persecution and violence,” the report states.
The recent “hurdles” created under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act also found mention in the report. “Numerous groups that document religious freedom violations or aid marginalised religious communities have been forced to shut down operations in the country given the restrictions under FCRA that regulate access to and reporting on foreign funds and prohibit their receipt for any activities purportedly ‘detrimental to the national interest’.”
Commenting on the anti-conversion laws recently introduced in some states, the report says these have “created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups”. It also mentions that the law has “increasingly focused” on interfaith couples. “Authorities also assisted, if not encouraged, the targeting by nonstate actors of interfaith couples, converts, their families, and their religious communities in an effort to prevent interfaith marriages,” it stated.
Under its recommendations to the US state department, the report calls for the imposition of sanctions “on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations of religious freedom” by freezing their assets or barring their entry into the United States. It also calls for promotion of religious freedom through bilateral and multilateral forums.
The report also has a subsection under its recommendation which gives recommendations to the US Congress. “Raise religious freedom issues in the US-India bilateral relationship and highlight concerns through hearings, briefings, letters, and congressional delegations,” it says.
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