A US government panel has called for India to be put on a religious freedom blacklist over a “drastic” downturn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, triggering a sharp rebuttal from New Delhi.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said India should join the ranks of “countries of particular concern” that would be subject to sanctions if they do not improve their records.
“In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault,” the report said.
The bipartisan panel recommends but does not set policy, and there is virtually no chance the State Department will follow its lead on India, an increasingly close US ally.
But the lower ranking for the ally amounts to a stark show of disapproval of India’s divisive new citizenship law, which the United Nations has called “fundamentally discriminatory”.
Trump declined to criticise the law during his February visit to India, where his meeting with Modi was punctuated by the worst violence in decades in New Delhi, in which 53 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
The commission, by contrast, is empowered as an independent arbiter to look only at nations’ religious freedom records, apart from their relationship with the US, Vice-Chair at USCIRF 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 called on the US to impose punitive measures, including visa bans on Indian officials believed responsible and grant funding to civil society groups that monitor hate speech.
The commission said Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which won a convincing election victory last year, “allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.”
It pointed to comments by Home Minister Amit Shah, who notoriously referred to mostly Muslim migrants as “termites,” and to a citizenship law that has triggered nationwide protests.
It also highlighted the revocation of the autonomy of Kashmir, which was India’s only Muslim-majority state, and allegations that Delhi police turned a blind eye to mobs who attacked Muslim neighbourhoods in February this year.
The Indian government, which has long been irritated by the commission’s comments, quickly rejected the report.
“Its biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.
“We regard it as an organisation of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” he said in a statement.
The State Department designates nine “countries of particular concern” on religious freedom – China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The commission asked that all nine countries remain on the list. In addition to India, it sought the inclusion of four more – Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam.
Pakistan, India’s historic rival, was added by the State Department in 2018 after years of appeals by the commission.
In its latest report, the commission said Pakistan “continued to trend negatively,” voicing alarm at forced conversions of Hindus and other minorities, the abuse of blasphemy prosecutions and a ban on the Ahmadi sect calling itself Muslim.
Citizenship law ‘tipping point’
India’s citizenship law fast-tracks naturalisation for minorities from neighbouring countries – but not if they are Muslim.
Modi’s government says it is not aimed at Muslims but rather providing refuge to persecuted people and should be commended.
But critics consider it a watershed move by Modi to define the world’s largest democracy as a Hindu nation and chip away at independent India’s founding principle of secularism.
Tony Perkins, the commission’s chair, called the law a “tipping point” and voiced concern about a registry in the northeastern state of Assam, under which 1.9 million people failed to produce documentation to prove that they were Indian citizens before 1971, when mostly Muslim migrants flowed in during Bangladesh’s bloody war of independence.
“The intentions of the national leaders are to bring this about throughout the entire country,” Perkins told an online news conference.
“You could potentially have 100 million people, mostly Muslims, left stateless because of their religion. That would be, obviously, an international issue,” said Perkins, a conservative Christian activist known for his opposition to gay rights who is close to President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump has hailed Modi and himself called for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the US when he campaigned for president.
But for the first time in years, India has been facing substantial criticism in the US Congress.
ചര്ച്ച് ഓഫ് ഗോഡ് മൈസൂര് ആരാധന പുതിയ സ്ഥലത്ത്
മൈസൂര്: കഴിഞ്ഞ 17 വര്ഷമായി മൈസൂര് ബന്നിമണ്ഡപ് ഇന്ഡസ്ട്രിയല് ഏരിയയില് പ്രവര്ത്തിച്ചു കൊണ്ടിരുന്ന ചര്ച്ച് ഓഫ് ഗോഡ് ഇന് ഇന്ത്യാ മൈസൂര് സഭ, മൈസൂര് ഹെബ്ബാള് ഏരിയയിലേയ്ക്ക് മാറി പ്രവര്ത്തനം ആരംഭിച്ചു. ഹെബ്രോന് ചര്ച്ച് ഓഫ് ഗോഡ് എന്ന് അറിയപ്പെട്ടിരുന്ന സഭ ഇനി മുതല് ചര്ച്ച് ഓഫ് ഗോഡ് (ഫുള് ഗോസ്പല്) ഇന് ഇന്ത്യ,മൈസൂര് എന്ന പേരിലായിരിക്കും അറിയപ്പെടുന്നത്. ദൈവസഭ കര്ണാടക സ്റ്റേറ്റ് ബൈബിള് കോളേജ് ഡയറക്ടറും കൗണ്സില് മെമ്പറുമായ പാസ്റ്റര് റോജി ഇ സാമുവേല് ഈ സഭയില് ശുശ്രൂഷിക്കുന്നു. മൈസൂര് പട്ടണത്തില് മലയാളം ആരാധനയ്ക്കായി ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നവര് ഈ സഭയുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെടുക.
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Indian Pastor Bound and Beaten for Refusal to Contribute to Tribal Rituals
India – According to Morning Star News, a pastor in India’s Jharkhand state was bound and publicly beaten by fellow villagers after he refused to contribute funds to the ritual worship of tribal deities. Despite this intense persecution, the pastor remained steadfast in his faith.
On January 24, Pastor Lakshman Oraon was called before the elders of Jungur village, located in the Latehar District of Jharkhand. The elders of the village demanded he contribute funds to the ritual worship of the village’s tribal deities. When he refused, his arms were tired behind his back and he was beaten.
“When they tied me and started kicking me, I was not at all angry,” Pastor Oraon told Morning Star News. “The Lord reminded me of the verses in Matthew 5:11-12. I received great strength from these words. There was a smile on my face all through.”
After the beating, village elders threatened to excommunicate Pastor Oraon and the other Christians of the village if they continued to refuse to contribute to the tribal rituals.
Facing expulsion, Pastor Oraon reached out to the Alliance Defending Freedom India (ADF). ADF contacted the local police station. Officers called Pastor Oraon and the village elders to the station to work out the situation.
“At the police station, we were asked to give the money, and we gave it,” Pastor Oraon told Morning Star News. “We are praying for the salvation of village leaders and the devotees of tribal deities. The police assured us that they will be a phone call away if any problem arises, and that we will not face any troubles from the villagers after giving the money.”
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ചര്ച്ച് ഓഫ് ഗോഡ് മൈസൂര് ആരാധന പുതിയ സ്ഥലത്ത്
മൈസൂര്: കഴിഞ്ഞ 17 വര്ഷമായി മൈസൂര് ബന്നിമണ്ഡപ് ഇന്ഡസ്ട്രിയല് ഏരിയയില് പ്രവര്ത്തിച്ചു കൊണ്ടിരുന്ന ചര്ച്ച് ഓഫ് ഗോഡ് ഇന് ഇന്ത്യാ മൈസൂര് സഭ, മൈസൂര് ഹെബ്ബാള് ഏരിയയിലേയ്ക്ക്...
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