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September 19, 2020

Persecution of minorities: 14 US senators urge Pompeo to impose sanctions on India

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September 19, 2020

WASHINGTON: Fourteen US Senators have signed onto a letter asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to consider the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s recommendation to designate India a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). The senators went on to demand that “targeted sanctions” be imposed against Indian agencies and officials responsible for escalating religious intolerance and violence, foreign media reported. The letter, primarily endorsed by the Coalition to Stop Genocide in India (CSGI) has been signed by ten Republican senators and four Democratic senators, requesting the US Secretary of State that in case the Government decides not to accept the recommendations by United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), it must inform its reason in the US congress within a period of 30 days.

The letter, also sent to US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, has said that both the State Department and USCIRF play important roles in sustaining the States’ leadership in religious freedom across the globe and therefore the annual report is “invaluable for Members of Congress, other governments and civil society groups,” other than “helping hold bad actors accountable.”

The senators’ letter also states that by making India a CPC, both the Government and USCIRF can “enable the international community to identify atrocities, encourage progress and develop solutions.”

The CSGI, which is a united body of more than 100 US social welfare organisations and rights institutions, has repeatedly endorsed the inclusion of India in the list of Countries of Particular Concern. It has also been consistently urging the State Department to accept the USCIRF’s recommendations owing to the escalating levels of persecution against religious minorities in India.

Further in the letter, the senators have urged the US government to hold India accountable “for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious freedom Act (IRFA).”

They have also demanded that the US government must quickly move to impose “targeted sanctions” against Indian agencies and officials “responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/o r barring their entry into the United States.”

The CSGI, reiterating its support for the Senators letter to the US Secretary of State, has said that the concern reflected through the Senator’s letter shows that “there is a strong bipartisan Congressional support for holding India accountable for its escalating violence against its principal minorities, the Muslims and the Christians.”

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014, religious intolerance and violence against Muslims and Christians has surged across India.

In the 2020 Annual Report, the USCIRF had 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.”

According to USCIRF, violations of the religious freedom rights of minorities have reached a level that India should be considered amongst the world’s worst violators.

With regard to India, the Commission has recommended that the US government should:

urge the BJP leadership to denounce RSS militancy that supports violence and discrimination; make clear its concern to the BJP-led government that virulent nationalist rhetoric is fueling an atmosphere in which perpetrators believe they can attack religious minorities with impunity; persistently press the Indian government to pursue perpetrators of violent acts that target members of minority religious groups; urge the government of India to oppose any attempts to interfere with or prohibit ties between religious communities inside India and their co-religionists outside the country, and any government efforts to regulate religious choice or conversion; urge India to allow official visits from foreign government agencies concerned with human rights, including religious freedom; and take into account, in the course of working toward improvements in U.S.-Indian economic and trade relations, the efforts of the Indian government to protect religious freedom, prevent and punish violence against religious minorities, and promote the rule of law.