US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar proposes to designate India as ‘Country of Special Concern’

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning violations of human rights and religious freedom in India and calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate India as a “country of particular concern”. has been done.

The motion, co-sponsored by lawmakers Rashida Talib and Juan Vargas, was presented Tuesday, according to the US Congressional website. It based its arguments for declaring India as a country of special concern on the findings and conclusions of one report good by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

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text of resolutionAvailable on the website of the US Congress, it was highlighted that the USCIRF had called for the designation of India as a Country of Special Concern for 3 consecutive years.

Citing the USCIRF’s 2022 annual report, the resolution states that in 2021, “the Indian government will increase the promotion and enforcement of policies – including promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda – that address Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, negatively affect Dalits and other religious minorities.”

According to the proposal, the report further stated: “The government continues to streamline its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities.” kept.”

In addition, the resolution said, the report called for the use of laws in India such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Sedition Act to “create a growing atmosphere of intimidation and fear in an attempt to silence anyone who speaks against the government”. as described. ,

The report also cited cases of the Indian government including Jesuit human rights defender Father Stan Swamy and Muslim human rights advocate Khurram Parvez, “repression of religious minority leaders and a voice for religious pluralism in India”. The Indian government also listed several examples of “criminalisation, persecution and suppression of interfaith couples and converting from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam”.

In this regard, the report also highlighted the “serious risks of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Registry of Citizens for Indian Muslims, including the possibility of millions being left stateless or subject to indefinite detention”.

As for the proposal, the report said: “In 2021, there were numerous attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, and their neighbourhoods, businesses, homes and houses of worship.

“Many of these incidents were violent, unprovoked, and/or encouraged or incited by government officials.”

The USCIRF report further stated: “In 2011, Mass. Protest continued against agricultural laws enacted in September 2020. Despite the wide and varied nature of the protests, there were still attempts to discredit the protesters, especially Sikh protesters, as terrorists and religiously motivated separatists – including government officials. ,

The resolution said the report cited a 2021 Oxfam India study that found that a third of Indian Muslims reported discriminatory treatment in hospitals during the surge of COVID-19 in India.

“As of June 2022, the USCIRF has listed 45 Indian citizens on its religion or faith victims list, all of whom were listed for their detention,” the resolution said.

The resolution also referred to a 2021 report by the State Department, which was published on June 2, 2022.

The resolution said the ‘Report on International Religious Freedom’ outlined multiple instances of violence and threats of violence against religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, in India throughout 2021.

It said that while launching the report during a press conference, Blinken said: “In India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we have seen increasing attacks on people and places of worship.”

And at the same press conference, the resolution continued, Ambassador-at-Large Rashad Hussain for International Religious Freedom said: “We are concerned about the targeting of many religious communities in India, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu Dalits, and Indigenous communities too.”

On these grounds, the resolution concluded, the House condemned human rights violations in India and violations of international religious freedom, including targeting of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, tribals and other religious and cultural minorities.

It said the House also expressed serious concern about the “deteriorating treatment” of religious minorities in India and called on Blinken to designate India as a “country of special concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act, 1998. did.

The proposal has been sent to the Committee on External Affairs.