USCIRF Commissioner David Curry expressed his deep frustration with the US State Department after its failure to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
WASHINGTON, D.C. -– A top US official has slammed the Biden administration for failing to formally designate India as one of the world’s worst religious freedom offenders over the country’s appalling record of violations against religious minorities.
|The State Department’s decision to exclude India from its gallery of global religious freedom offenders was a “baldfaced political maneuver” and “shameful”, said Commissioner David Curry of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) this week during a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill. He also added that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the US State Department “did not honoUr the law” in its refusal to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern, despite the fact that India “clearly” qualifies as such.|
|“I cannot tell you how frustrated I, and all of us at USCIRF, are that the State Department did not take our recommendation to designate India as a CPC,” said Curry. “India clearly meets the threshold of a CPC as set out in the International Religious Freedom Act… This was a baldfaced political maneuver to ignore what’s happening in India. That’s why it’s so shameful.“On November 22, USCIRF released a Country Update report on India, expressing concerns over rise in religious freedom violations and reiterating its recommendation that the State Department designate India as a CPC. Shortly after, Secretary Blinken and the State Department released the official CPC list for 2022, failing to include India despite multiple warnings from USCIRF.|
“We reminded the State Department… [that] when the standards of the law are clearly met, they must designate the country as a CPC. They cannot waive action on the designation. They can only waive action once the designation is made, and that can only be done based on the important national interests of the United States,” said Curry.
|Curry also addressed the “double standard” apparent in the State Department’s willingness to list other US allies, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as CPCs while India is consistently left off the list.|
“We have to keep it real that [the Indian government] is spending a lot of money here, they’re spending a lot of time demonising anybody who speaks out on these subjects. And there’s a ripple effect of fear amongst the political class,” he told a crowd of people including congressional staffers, other government officials and members of the civil society.
Adding that speaking against Hindu extremism is “not a denigration of Indian culture,” Curry said, “We understand the values and the cultural importance of the Indian people, but this point is not separate from that. It has to be addressed. We need the Indian government to stop encouraging the targeting of religious minorities.”
Curry thanked IAMC for organising the briefing, and called IAMC’s newly released report, “Genocide Convention and the Persecution of Muslims in India,” a “very important” document.
|Moderating the briefing was Nadine Maenza, who served as USCIRF’s Vice Chair from 2018-2020 and Chair from 2020-2022.|
While commenting on the State Department’s decision to not include India in its list of CPCs for this year, Ms. Maenza said, “This is disappointing, and frankly unacceptable, on many counts.”
“I cannot emphasise enough how far past time it is for officials in the State Department and the US government as a whole to stop skirting around the issue of Muslim persecution in India. India is our ally, and just as importantly, it is the world’s largest democracy. And the systematic persecution of 200 million religious minorities in a democracy is simply unacceptable,” she said.
The Congressional Briefing was held to raise awareness ahead of the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime, which falls on December 9.
Dr. Gregory Stanton, founder of the global watchdog organisation Genocide Watch, spoke on “the very worrying signs of genocide underway in India,” calling on the US government to be vocal in condemning the actions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We need to make very clear to Mr. Modi that he’s not going to get away with this kind of persecution of Muslims,” he said.
Speaking specifically on India’s crackdown on Muslim-majority Kashmir, Dr. Ather Zia, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Northern Colorado, said that “widespread xenophobia and Islamophobia, fuelled by Hindu supremacy and ethnonationalism,” are at the heart of human rights abuses in the region.
“Kashmiris exist in a state of siege, caught amidst a dense web of Indian soldiers, checkpoints, barbed wires, bunkers, military convoys, trucks, drones, armored vehicles, garrisons, secret prisons, jails, and military bases,” said Zia.
“The State Department can and should designate officials who have committed religious freedom violations as Individuals of Particular Concern, effectively banning these individuals from entering or conducting business in the United States,” said Sunita Viswanath, Co-Founder of Hindus for Human Rights.
“December 9th is the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide,” said Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of IAMC. “If there’s one thing the world should have learned from the Holocaust, it is that silence is complicity. That is why it’s of the utmost importance that Secretary Blinken and the State Department listen to the victims and designate India as a CPC in 2023.”
The briefing was cosponsored by Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign, 21Wilberforce, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, International Commission for Dalit Rights, Center for Pluralism, American Muslim Institution, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, International Society for Peace and Justice, The Humanism Project and Association of Indian Muslims of America.
Cover photo: Commissioner David Curry of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)