Context: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recently downgraded India to the lowest ranking, “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report.
More about the report:
- The report has placed India alongside countries, including China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan under Tier 1 category of particular concern.
- This is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in ‘countries of particular concern’ category.
- India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing
- USCIRF has alleged that in 2019, religious freedom conditions in India "experienced a drastic turn downward", with religious minorities under increasing assault.
Reasons of the downgrading in ranking sighted by the report
- The commission has made reference to the allegations and specific concerns about
- The Citizenship Amendment Act
- The proposed National Register for Citizens
- Anti-conversion laws and
- The situation in Jammu and Kashmir
Rejection of the report by Indian government
- The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has rejected the USCIRF statement as neither “accurate nor warranted”.
- It has also questioned the body’s “locus standi” in India’s internal affairs.
- Threat to India’s impression as multi-religious democracy:
- Overall, such reports contribute to the construction of an image of a country, and the Indian government is cognisant of this pattern.
- India advertises itself as a multi-religious democracy and as an adherent to global norms of rule of law.
- The catalogue of religious violence, incitement and wrecking of the rule of law in several parts of the country remains an unsettling fact for India.
- Essential functions of a democracy:
- Reputation is important for a country’s economic development and global standing but beyond that instrumental perspective, rule of law and communal harmony are essential for any functioning democracy.
About U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom(USCIRF)
- USCIRF is an independent, U.S. federal government commission
- It is created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.
Countries of Particular concern:
- It is a designation by the United States Secretary of State (under authority delegated by the President) of a nation guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998 and its amendment of 1999.
- The term "particularly severe violations of religious freedom" means systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom, including violations such as:
- Torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
- Prolonged detention without charges;
- Causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons; or
- Other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.
- Nations so designated are subject to further actions, including economic sanctions, by the United States.
- Recommendations for inclusion are given by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (along the U.S. Department of State's Office of International Religious Freedom) to the president, the secretary of state and US Congress.
- Its recommendations are not always followed by the Secretary of State.