An annual report released by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Tuesday identified India as a country of particular concern since religious minorities in the country have faced “increasing assault” since the 2019 elections.
The report states that the national government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has:
institute[d] national-level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims. The national government 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.
The report also highlights the BJP’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a fast-track to citizenship in India for undocumented immigrants that excludes Muslim people. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report similar to USCIRF’s, which alleged that the CAA and BJP policies were causing discrimination against Muslims in India.
Examples of violence and discrimination against Muslim people were specifically identified in the report. First, the report references the violent protests from last December that erupted after the passage of the CAA. The protests were met with threats from one BJP chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, who was quoted saying the protestors should be fed bullets.
The report then points to discrimination by government officials. For instance, the Home Minister Amit Shah denied that existing laws were too weak on religious lynchings, even after the Supreme Court demanded the central government implement stricter ones.
The USCIRF only makes recommendations, which included designating India as a country of particular concern, imposing sanctions on the Indian government agencies and officials responsible for religious freedom violations, strengthening the US Embassy’s engagement with religious communities impacted by religiously motivated violence, and allocating funds to create a system to monitor actions that violate religious freedoms.
The report also suggests that the US Congress hold hearings to “highlight religious freedom conditions in India and US policy toward India.”