From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Religious freedon in India
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report.
Religious freedom in India has been a contested issue since decades. Recent moves by the govt. since the abrogation of Art. 370 which triggered the riots in Delhi has left a big scar on the secular fabric of India.
- It is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.
- Its principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally.
Accusing India of religious intolerance
- USCIRF has placed India alongside China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
- India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing.
- This is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in the CPC category.
- The commission also recommended that the U.S. government take stringent action against India under the “International Religious Freedom Act” (IRFA).
What led India to lower its religious freedom?
- India took a sharp downward turn in 2019 due to concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register for Citizens, anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The report accuses India using its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom across India.
- The panel reported harassment and violence against religious minorities to continue with impunity, and engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence against them.
- The Centre reacted sharply to the USCIRF report terming it “biased and tendentious” and rejected its observations.
- The biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels.
- Major panellists of USCIRF dissented with the recommendation on India as being ‘too harsh’ and that ended up placing the country alongside what they termed as “rogue nations” like China and North Korea.
- India regards the accusations as inaccurate and unwarranted and questioned the body’s “locus standi” in India’s internal affairs.
US’s religious activism: Unwelcomed by all
- The US earlier this month has announced the launch of a 27-nation International Religious Freedom Alliance, which aim to adopt a collective approach in protecting and preserving religious freedom across the world.
- Among the prominent countries to join the alliance are Brazil, the United Kingdom, Israel, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Greece.
- The USCIRF has been accused worldwide of being biased towards focusing on the persecution of Christians and of being anti-Muslim & Hinduphobic. It panels various controversial personalities.