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International Religious Freedom Report 2022

Context:

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that India be designated a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC), i.e., the category of governments performing most poorly on religious freedom criteria. It has also called for “targeted sanctions” on individuals and entities responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ or entities’ assets and/or barring their entry” into the U.S.

Relevance:

GS II- International relations (Important religious institutions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Report:
  2. About USCIRF
  3. Why does USCIRF want India to be designated as a CPC?

Key Highlights of the Report:

  • The primary focus of the report is on two groups of countries:
    • Country of Particular Concern (CPC): CPCs are countries whose governments either engage in or tolerate “particularly severe violations” of religious freedom, which are defined as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of the internationally recognized right to freedom of religion”.
    • Special Watch List: A country on the “Special Watch List” is one that does not meet all of the CPC criteria but participates in or tolerates grave religious freedom abuses.
  • The Report also includes USCIRF’s recommendations of violent nonstate actors for designation by the US State Department as Entities of Particular Concern (EPCs), under International Review of Financial Analysis (IRFA).
  • The report also highlights key global developments and trends in religious freedom for the year 2021, including in nations that do not fit the CPC or SWL standards. The Covid-19 pandemic and religious freedom, blasphemy and hate speech laws, transnational repression, religious intolerance in Europe, declining religious freedom conditions in South Asia, and political turmoil that raises religious freedom concerns are among them.

About USCIRF:

  • The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan body created by the International Religious Freedom Act, 1998 (IRFA) with a mandate to monitor religious freedom violations globally and make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.
  • It is a congressionally created entity and not an NGO or advocacy organisation.
  • It is led by nine part-time commissioners appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the House and the Senate.
  • According to the IRFA, commissioners are “selected among distinguished individuals noted for their knowledge and experience in fields relevant to the issue of international religious freedom, including foreign affairs, direct experience abroad, human rights, and international law.”

Other countries designated as CPCs:

  • For 2022, based on religious freedom conditions in 2021, a total of 15 countries have been recommended for the CPC designation.
  • They include India, Pakistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam.
  • Countries recommended for a SWL designation include Algeria, Cuba, Nicaragua, Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

Why does USCIRF want India to be designated as a CPC?

  • The USCIRF, in its annual report, states that in 2021, “religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened.”
  • Noting that the “Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies —including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities,” the report observed that “the government continued to systemise its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and State levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities.”
  • It highlighted the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against those documenting religious persecution and violence, detailed the creation of “hurdles against the licensure and receipt of international funding” by religious and charitable NGOs, and observed that “numerous attacks were made on religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, and their neighborhoods, businesses, homes, and houses of worship”.
  • It also criticised the spate of fresh anti-conversion legislations, noting that “national, State and local governments demonised and attacked the conversion of Hindus to Christianity or Islam.”
  • This is the third year in a row that India has received a CPC recommendation. India has in the past pushed back against the grading, questioning the locus standi of USCIRF.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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