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SOURCE: PTI

Observing that the USCIRF’s recent annual report that criticised India for alleged violations of religious freedom is based on omission and commission of facts utilising partial data, an Indian diaspora think-tank has urged the US State Department to reject it.

In its annual report on Wednesday, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that India be designated as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)”, alleging that the status of religious freedom in the country has worsened.

India on Thursday blasted the Congressional-appointed body’s report for attempting to “interfere” in its electoral exercise and continuing to indulge in “propaganda” against the country, “masquerading” as part of an annual report. “The US Commission on International Religious Freedom is known as a biased organisation with a political agenda. They continue to publish their propaganda on India masquerading as part of an annual report,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in New Delhi.

In a statement on Thursday, the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS) characterised the USCIRF report as biased, presenting partial data and flawed conclusions.

Khanderao Kand, Chief of Policy and Strategy at FIIDS, stated that the USCIRF report is based on “omission and commission of facts, utilising partial data, hiding the full context, generalising isolated incidents, and questioning the implementation of the law of the land.” “This report used partial and isolated incidents to wrongly brand the largest democracy in the world with a population of 1.4 billion, missing the opportunity to indicate positive recent trends against the background of a complex and violent past history,” he said.

Khanderao added that the USCIRF is wrong to recommend the largest democracy and largely peaceful civilisation as a country of particular concern.

“Moreover, it is highly questionable recommendation asking to evaluate India under FATF (Financial Action Task Force), especially when India itself has been a target of terrorism,” he said.

In a detailed analysis of the report, FIIDS said that USCIRF’s position on India contrasts with its analysis of 2023, indicating significant year-over-year improvement.

FIIDS’ analysis concluded that the Manipur riots were inter-tribal, resulting from historical rivalry exploited by drug mafias and Myanmar infiltrators, impacting all religions.

“However, the USCIRF only singled out Christians. Moreover, we contrasted this with the position of the Archbishop of Bombay,” said FIIDS’s analyst Mohan Sonti.

“The report wrongly held India responsible for implementing the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), preventing illegal and improper use of foreign funding. Why can’t NGOs follow reporting and usage laws?” he asked.

The USCIRF report failed to mention India’s constitutional guarantee to freedom of religion, with prohibitions on coercive, fraudulent and forced conversion, he said.

“Instead, it complained about the enforcement of laws trying to protect gullible, underprivileged people,” he added.

“As there were no major Hindu-Muslim riots in India in 2023, instead of mentioning it as a year free of such riots, the report presented isolated incidents to generalise and brand without acknowledging India’s large Muslim population,” FIIDS said.

“FIIDS’ raises doubts and questions regarding any influence or agenda against the third-largest economy and a strong ally of the US. Considering the consequential nature of US-India relations in 2021, FIIDS recommends that the US Department of State should carefully evaluate and reject USCIRF recommendations,” the organisation said in a statement.