A Troubling Decline: USCIRF Report And India – OpEd


On May 1, 2024, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report, shedding light on the deteriorating conditions of religious freedom in India. The report presents a grim picture, detailing a range of human rights violations and discriminatory practices targeting religious minorities. The findings have prompted USCIRF to recommend that the US Congress place India on the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC).

The USCIRF report highlights a significant increase in violence against religious minorities in India. In 2023 alone, non-governmental organizations reported 687 incidents of violence against Christians. These incidents include attacks on churches, physical assaults on worshippers, and harassment of Christian leaders. Such acts of violence have created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the Christian community. Muslims have also been subjected to severe persecution. Vigilante groups, often operating with impunity, have attacked Muslims under the guise of protecting cows from slaughter. Several mosques have been destroyed, frequently under the watchful eyes of the police, further exacerbating tensions. These actions have not only targeted the religious practices of Muslims but have also infringed upon their basic human rights.

The situation in Kashmir remains particularly troubling. Indian authorities have continued to detain and harass Kashmiri journalists, religious leaders, and human rights defenders. These actions are seen as attempts to stifle dissent and suppress voices advocating for Kashmiri autonomy and human rights. The report highlights the ongoing detention of several prominent figures, drawing attention to the dire state of freedom of expression in the region. The USCIRF report points to several legislative measures that have contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom in India. The enforcement of laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and various anti-conversion and cow slaughter laws have had a disproportionately negative impact on religious minorities.

The UAPA has been used to arbitrarily detain individuals, often without trial, on charges of terrorism. This law has been criticized for its broad definitions and its potential for misuse against activists and religious leaders. Similarly, the FCRA has been employed to monitor and restrict the activities of NGOs that receive foreign funding, stifling their ability to operate effectively. The CAA, which provides a pathway to citizenship for non-Muslim refugees from neighboring countries, has been widely criticized for its discriminatory nature. By explicitly excluding Muslims, the CAA has further marginalized an already vulnerable community. Anti-conversion laws, present in several states, have been used to harass and prosecute individuals accused of converting others to their faith, often targeting Christian missionaries and Muslim clerics.

One of the most shocking incidents detailed in the USCIRF report is the violence that erupted in Manipur State in June 2023. During clashes, more than 500 churches and two synagogues were destroyed, and over 70,000 people were displaced. This large-scale violence reflects deep-seated communal tensions and the failure of the authorities to protect vulnerable communities. The destruction of religious sites and the mass displacement of people have had a devastating impact on the social fabric of the region.

In July 2023, communal violence erupted in Haryana during a Hindu procession. The violence saw the torching of a Muslim tomb and a mosque, resulting in the deaths of seven individuals. Such incidents of communal violence are indicative of the growing religious intolerance and the failure of law enforcement to prevent and control mob violence. The targeting of religious sites during these clashes underscores the deep divisions and the need for immediate intervention to restore harmony. The USCIRF report also touches on the international ramifications of India’s religious freedom violations. In September 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that Indian authorities were involved in the killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. This allegation was followed by reports of a plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent Sikh activist, in the United States. These incidents have strained diplomatic relations and highlighted the global reach of India’s internal policies.

In December 2023, the Supreme Court of India upheld the 2019 revocation of Article 370, which had granted special status and autonomy to the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. This decision has been widely criticized for further disenfranchising the region’s Muslim population and for its potential to exacerbate tensions. The revocation of Article 370 has led to increased militarization and a crackdown on civil liberties in Kashmir, deepening the human rights crisis. The USCIRF report recommends that the US Congress place India on the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC). This designation would recognize the severe violations of religious freedom and could potentially lead to sanctions or other diplomatic measures. The report emphasizes the need for the Indian government to take immediate and concrete steps to address these violations and to protect the rights of all religious communities.

Key recommendations include repealing or amending discriminatory laws such as the UAPA, FCRA, and CAA, and ensuring that anti-conversion and cow slaughter laws are not misused to target religious minorities. The report also calls for the protection of religious sites and the prosecution of those responsible for communal violence. Additionally, it urges the Indian government to release detained activists, journalists, and religious leaders and to respect the freedom of expression and assembly.

The USCIRF’s 2024 annual report presents a stark reminder of the challenges facing religious minorities in India. The documented incidents of violence, legislative discrimination, and the targeting of activists and journalists paint a troubling picture of the state of religious freedom. As India navigates its path forward, it must prioritize the protection of all its citizens’ rights and work towards fostering an inclusive and tolerant society. The international community, including the United States, has a crucial role to play in encouraging and supporting these efforts. The recommendations outlined in the report provide a roadmap for addressing these issues and ensuring that India upholds its commitment to religious freedom and human rights.

Samantha Azizi

Samantha Azizi is pursuing her MPhil in South Asian Studies at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon. With a keen interest in the rich and diverse cultures, histories, and politics of South Asia, Samantha is committed to exploring the intricate dynamics that shape this region.

One thought on “A Troubling Decline: USCIRF Report And India – OpEd

  • May 25, 2024 at 11:43 am

    Uncle Sam has to poke its nose all over think of your (US) HR records?How the Academics that too a lady professor has been treated by your male police during the recent university riots and protests. How the black citizens are treated ! Who has mandated the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for shedding light on the conditions of religious freedom in India.The findings have prompted USCIRF to recommend that the US Congress place India on the list of Countries of Particular Concern and how will it help the US.
    Secularist is someone who believes that religion should not be involved with the ordinary social and political activities of a country. The chaplain of the US House of Representatives is the officer of the US House of Representatives responsible for beginning each day’s proceedings with a prayer and so is the case with most Christian nations.If nations call themselves Secular why is this practice continuing.Please think of peace in Ukraine and Gaza then to preach India the world Guru.


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