India on Tuesday rejected a sharp critique by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), saying that the bipartisan American government panel’s “misrepresentation has reached new levels”.
“We reject the observations on India in the USCIRF Annual Report. Its biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels. It has not been able to carry its own Commissioners in its endeavour. We regard it as an organisation of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
The comment came after the USCIRF recommended India as a “Country of Particular Concern” on religious freedom for the first time since 2004.
India is among 14 countries to make it to the list, “meaning their governments engage in or tolerate ‘systematic, ongoing, egregious’ violations of religious freedom”, the USCIRF said.
“We are seeing impunity for violence by non-state actors committed against religious minorities,” USCIRF chair Tony Perkins said about India which has been particularly criticised in the report for the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Other countries on the list include Pakistan, China and North Korea.
Countries of Particular Concern in #USCIRFAnnualReport2020: Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) April 28, 2020
In its 2020 edition of its annual report on International Religious Freedom released on Tuesday, the USCIRF alleged that in 2019, religious freedom conditions in India “experienced a drastic turn downward”, with religious minorities under increasing assault.
However, two of the nine members have expressed dissent over the USCIRF recommendation to place India in the CPC. And a third member also expressed his personal view on India, news agency PTI reported.
“India does not belong to the same category as authoritarian regimes like China and North Korea. India is the largest democratic nation in the world, where the CAA has been challenged openly by the opposition Congress Party and lawmakers, civil society, and various groups,” said Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee.
Established by the US Government in 1998 after the inaction of the International Religious Freedom Act, recommendations of USCIRF are non-binding to the State Department.
Traditionally, India does not recognise the view of the USCIRF. For more than a decade, it has denied visas to members of the USCIRF.