India's religious freedoms 'under ongoing threat', says US rights group
In its 2022 Annual Report from earlier this year, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that the US government designate India a "country of particular concern" for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as set forth by the International Religious Freedom Act.
The State Department has refused to incorporate the commission's recommendations.
The condition of religious freedoms in India remained "poor," according to the report.
"During the year, the Indian government at the national, state, and local levels continued to promote and enforce policies, including laws targeting religious conversion, interfaith relationships, and cow slaughter, that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and Adivasis," it said.
"The national government also continued to suppress critical voices — particularly religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf — including through surveillance, harassment, demolition of property, arbitrary travel bans, and detention under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and by targeting NGOs under the Financial Contribution Regulation Act," it added.
Earlier this year, India refused USCRIF's "biased" and "inaccurate" report, saying it reflects "a severe lack of understanding of India and its constitutional framework, its plurality and its democratic ethos".
Violent attacks especially against India's Muslim minority - which makes up about 15 percent of India's nearly 1.4 billion population, constituting the second largest religious group - have skyrocketed since 2014 when Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power.