By Matias Perttula
This year for the first time since 2004, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) boldly and correctly made the official recommendation to the United States Department of State that India should be labeled as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
The recommendation was strongly supported by the vast majority of civil society nongovernmental organizations, activists, human rights leaders and others due to the overwhelming amount of evidence emanating from the religious minority communities of India regarding the malevolent social, political, economic, legal, and communal discrimination and persecution they face on a daily basis.
Organizations such as ICC have reported for years on the atrocities that India’s regional and national governments have pursued through various policies including the Citizenship Amendment Act, anti-forced conversion laws, the country’s blasphemy laws, and others. These policies overwhelmingly target religious minority communities in an effort to pursue the Hindu supremacist agenda known as Hindutva, the aim of which is to make India a Hindu-only country. Cries of national leaders from the ruling BJP and its parent organization, the RSS, have openly called for all non-Hindus to be eradicated from society.
The recommendation from USCIRF that India be listed as a CPC is grounded in solid evidence and was further encouraged by a bipartisan coalition of 14 members of the United States Senate in a letter to Secretary Pompeo strongly recommending that the Department of State officially adopt the recommendations.
The CPC designation and the Senate letter were criticized by some, calling the maneuvers unfounded due to bias and poor research on the part of USCIRF. These criticisms couldn’t be more baseless.
USCIRF has been denied official access by the government of India for years. While USCIRF has long made it clear that the Commission would welcome the opportunity to travel to India, as they do to other countries to conduct direct research, India has refused to allow them access.
USCIRF is a bipartisan commission by design. The commissioners represent a variety of religious and political backgrounds and share a strong commitment to integrity and fact-based decision making. The recommendations made by USCIRF are not based on hearsay, hyperbole or conjecture; for that matter, such decisions are not made lightly.
The Commission’s threshold for a CPC recommendation is incredibly high. While the Commission submits one unified report, commissioners often offer dissenting opinions regarding designations to further undergird the integrity of the designations and the reporting. Such was in the case of India, with a majority of commissioners agreeing that a CPC recommendation was appropriate based on the evidence before them and some dissenting opinions. The accusation that the Commission is politically biased and uses faulty research is unfounded.
Furthermore, India’s recent maneuvers to shutdown both faith based and non-faith based human rights and humanitarian organizations in the country such as Compassion International and hundreds of others is only further evidence of the radical BJP agenda.
Even organizations like Amnesty International were forced to cease operations as the BJP led government froze their bank accounts.
It is abundantly clear that Indian Hindu-nationalist leadership is on a mission to eradicate all other faiths in India.
Designating India as a CPC is, even now, a tall order and will likely face opposition from the higher echelons of the U.S. government, but the fact remains that India is actively moving down a dangerous path of persecution led by individuals committed to Hindutva and the suppression, persecution and discrimination of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other religious minorities in India.
The US should designate India as a CPC.
Matias Perttula serves as the Advocacy Director at International Christian Concern.