United States (US) Congresswoman Ilhan Omar introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives, seeking to urge Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate India as a country of “particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act and the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act.
The congresswoman, along with lawmakers Rashida Talib and Juan Vargas, submitted the resolution during the 117th session of Congress on Tuesday, as they appealed to the lower house to condemn violations of human rights and religious freedom in India.
The resolution highlighted that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called for designating India as a country of particular concern for three consecutive years.
It added that the USCIRF’s latest report states that in 2021, “the Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies—including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda—that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities”.
The human rights body had furthered that the Indian government had “continued to systemize its ideological vision of a Hindu state ”by enforcing existing laws and creating new ones to structurally change the state, resulting in increasing hostility faced by the country’s religious minorities”.
The report added that the USCIRF report described the use of laws such as 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”.
Referring to the repression of religious minority leaders and voices, “USCIRF report outlines emblematic cases of the Indian Government’s repression, including the Jesuit human rights defender Father Stan Swamy and the Muslim human rights advocate Khurram Parvez,” the report read.
The US human rights body also outlined that there were “numerous examples of the Indian government criminalizing, harassing, and repressing interfaith couples and converts from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam.”
The lawmaker’s resolution noted USCIRF’s criticism of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Registry of Citizens for Indian Muslims, deeming them a “severe risk” for Indian Muslims, “including the possibility of rendering millions stateless or subject to indefinite detention.”
The report further added that “in 2021, numerous attacks were made on religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, and their neighbourhoods, businesses, homes, and houses of worship. Many of these incidents were violent, unprovoked, and/or encouraged or incited by government officials.”
In addition, the report cited an Oxfam India study conducted in 2021, which found that a third of Indian Muslims reported discriminatory treatment at hospitals during the Covid–19 pandemic.
The resolution added the UNCIRF further found evidence that during the 2021 mass protests against farm laws, “despite the widespread and diverse nature of the protests, efforts—including by government officials—were still made to discredit the protesters, especially Sikh protesters, as terrorists and religiously motivated separatists”.
Currently, USCIRF lists 45 Indian nationals on its Freedom of Religion or Belief Victims list, all of whom were listed for their detention, read the resolution.
The resolution stated that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain had earlier expressed concern over the rising tide of violence against religious communities.
In a press conference launching the 2021 Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom, Blinken had said, “in India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship.”
Therefore, the US lawmakers called on the house of Congress to “condemn the human rights violations and violations of international religious freedom in India, including those targeting Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Adivasis, and other religious and cultural minorities.”
Moreover, the resolution called for “expressing grave concern about the worsening treatment of religious minorities in India” and calling on secretary Blinken to designate India as a country of particular concern.