The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) is deeply concerned about the latest report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) examining India’s constitution and national and state laws that violate the religious freedom of both minority communities and HindCover of India Reportu Dalits. The report, “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India”, is authored by Dr. Iqtidar Karamat Cheema, director of the U.K.-based Institute for Leadership and Community Development.
According to the recently released report, India faces serious challenges to both its pluralistic traditions and its religious minorities. “Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Jains generally are fearful of what the future portends. Dalits also are increasingly being attacked and harassed”.
The study highlights opportunities for the Indian government to revise laws so that they would align with the country’s constitution and international human rights standards. The study also makes recommendations to the U.S. government on ways to promote religious freedom in India.
“USCIRF has failed to justify its intentions of this report on India prima facie based on the sources cited and findings presented,” Samir Kalra, senior director of the Hindu American Foundation was quoted in a press release. “Though previous special reports published by USCIRF on religious extremism within Pakistan’s textbooks have been deemed insightful by HAF leaders, this recent report does not meet the standard of those reports and in the context of India’s pluralistic democracy, the report’s author simply cites what have become known as ‘alternative facts’,” Kalra said.
HAF takes issue with many facets of the report, including: erroneous and misleading representation of government support for religious institutions in India; the practical effect of personal status laws on all communities; the false equivalency of comparing the scale of past and current predatory proselytization to the recent Ghar Wapsi movement; the nature and intent of cow protection laws; the assumption that Government of India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act discriminates against minority organizations and favors Hindu organizations, both in India and abroad; and the assertion that caste-based discrimination is a Hindu religious teaching, rather than a pernicious social problem blighting all Indian religious communities today.
“The report treads on known grievances previously raised by USCIRF,” says HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla, “But this report’s egregious display of Hinduphobia in linking caste-based discrimination to the Hindu religion is unprecedented, and must be condemned.”
Joining the HAF, the Indian National Overseas Congress, USA also expressed serious concern over the report. “It is unfortunate that the last two years have witnessed a steady deterioration of religious freedom and human rights in India especially that of the minorities and the current administration cannot shirk their responsibility in that regard,” George Abraham, chairman of the Indian National Overseas Congress, USA, was quoted in a INOC press release said.