October 5, 2023 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) held a hearing on “Advancing Religious Freedom within the U.S. – India Bilateral Relationship,” which highlighted the Indian government’s legal framework and enforcement of discriminatory policies against religious minorities. Witnesses gave testimony exploring policy options for the United States to work with India to combat religious freedom violations and other related human rights in the country.
“Religious freedom conditions in India have notably declined in recent years,” said USCIRF Chair Abraham Cooper. “Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Dalits, and Adivasis are experiencing increased levels of attacks and acts of intimidation. Authorities have continued to suppress minority voices and those advocating on their behalf. These trends, and their implication for U.S. foreign policy, should not be ignored.”
USCIRF’s Frank. R Wolf Freedom of Religion or Belief Victims List, a public database of individuals known to have been detained on the basis of the peaceful exercise of their freedom of religion or belief, includes 37 individuals across multiple faiths imprisoned in India.
“During the hearing, we brought attention to Meeran Haider and Rupesh Singh, both of whom are detained for protesting religious freedom conditions. Haider was targeted for leading peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and was charged with offenses under the UAPA. Singh is a freelance journalist known for his reporting on state violence and discrimination against Adivasis. He has been detained since July 2022, also under the UAPA,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Frederick A. Davie. “USCIRF calls on the Indian government to evaluate these cases and to release all prisoners of conscience and those detained for peacefully expressing their religion or belief.”
Since 2020, USCIRF has recommended that the U.S. Department of State designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. This past June, USCIRF urged President Joseph R. Biden to address concerning issues of religious freedom and other related human rights in India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit. USCIRF also highlighted the violence against the tribal Christians in Manipur in a Spotlight Podcast episode and published an issue update on India’s state-level anti-conversion laws, providing further context on India’s use of these laws to target religious minorities.
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