Religious freedom watchdog demands US to blacklist India

LAHORE – The United States’ Commission on International Religious Freedom on Tuesday , in its annual report, called for the State Department to add India to its list of countries with uniquely poor records on protecting freedom to worship.

The bipartisan commission, created in 1998 by Congress to make policy recommendations about global religious freedom, proposed designating India as a “country of particular concern,”

That lower ranking for a long-running US ally amounts to a stark show of disapproval of India’s divisive new citizenship law, which sparked broad worries about disenfranchisement of Muslims in the country.

US President Trump had declined to criticise the citizenship measure during his February visit to India, where his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was punctuated by skirmishes between Hindus and Muslims. The commission, by contrast, is empowered as an independent arbiter to look only at nations’ religious freedom records, apart from their relationship with the United States, vice chair Nadine Maenza said. Beyond the citizenship law, Maenza said in an interview, India has a broader “move toward clamping down on religious minorities that’s really troublesome.It showed the central government’s involvement in repressing religious freedom and, of course, the consequence of that can very well be millions of Muslims in detention, deportation and statelessness when the government completes its planned national register of citizens,” Maenza added.

India is not currently on the US State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern,” which cites nations that it determines have committed “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

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