Religious freedom in India continued on negative trajectory: US commission

WASHINGTON: Religious freedom in India under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken “a drastic turn downward for the second year in a row,” the US government commission report revealed on Wednesday.

In its annual report, the congressionally mandated U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that religious freedom conditions in India continued their negative trajectory.

The report further said PM Narendra Modi’s government promoted Hindu nationalist policies resulting in systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.

It pointed to allegations of police complicity in violence against Muslims during deadly riots last year in New Delhi and continued concerns over a citizenship law championed by Modi that critics say defines Muslims as non-Indian.

The Indian government has been stifling dissent and voiced concern over the rise of restrictions on inter-faith marriages including in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh, read the report.

The commission suggested that the State Department designate India as a country of particular concern, a blacklist that includes China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Other nations already on the State Department’s blacklist — which paves the way for sanctions if they do not improve their records — are Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The Indian government last year responded furiously to the call by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and there remains little chance that the State Department will take its advice and condemn India, an increasingly close US ally.