India strongly rejects USCIRF report on religious freedom; says 'misrepresentation has reached new levels'

The centre has strongly rejected a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that has listed India to a list of countries seen as systematic and egregious violators and sanction Indian government agencies and officials responsible for it.

"We reject the observations, its biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels. We regard it as an organization of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Tuesday night.

Earlier, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Tuesday night released its 2020 Annual Report, documenting significant developments during 2019, including remarkable progress in Sudan and a sharp downward turn in India, and making recommendations to enhance the U.S. government’s promotion of freedom of religion or belief abroad in 2020.

In the 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) because their governments engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.” These include nine that the State Department designated as CPCs in December 2019—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan—as well as five others—India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

Sudan stands out, demonstrating that new leadership with the will to change can quickly bring tangible improvements. Uzbekistan also made important progress in 2019 toward fulfilling the commitments it made to allow religious groups greater freedom. Though other countries deteriorated, particularly India, we see international religious freedom on an upward trajectory overall.” USCIRF chair Tony Perkins said.

Last year, in a report on the religious freedom implications of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the USCIRF said 1.9 million names of residents of Assam have been left off the updated list and expressed concerns about how the exercise is being used to target and disenfranchise the Muslim population. "Close to two million long-time residents of Assam may soon be deemed stateless. They are being stripped of their citizenship without a fair, transparent, and well-regulated NRC process," said USCIRF commissioner Anurima Bhargava.

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