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US Panel calls for placing India on “religious freedom blacklist”

US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) suggested that India should join the ranks of countries of particular concern that would be subject to sanctions if they do not improve their records. The US government panel has called for India to be put on a religious freedom blacklist over a “drastic” downturn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The report noted that the religious freedom conditions in India in 2019 experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault. USCIRF, which is an independent arbiter and looks only at nations’ religious freedom records apart from their relationship with the US, has called on the US to impose punitive measures, including visa bans on Indian officials believed responsible and grant funding to civil society groups that monitor hate speech.

The commission said Modi’s Hindu nationalist government allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence. The commission also pointed to India’s CAA and to the comments by Home Minister Amit Shah, who referred to Muslim migrants as “termites”.

It also highlighted the revocation of the autonomy of Kashmir, which was India’s only Muslim-majority state, and allegations that Delhi police turned a blind eye to mobs who attacked Muslim neighborhoods in February. The February violence in North East India was instigated by supporters of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. The supporters of the ruling party attacked the peaceful anti-CAA sit-ins in North East Delhi.

About 53 lives were claimed by the February violence. Over 200 were injured, properties destroyed, and communities displaced in targeted attacks by Hindu mobs. While a policeman and some Hindus were also killed, the majority of victims were Muslim.

The passage of the CAA in December last year sparked nationwide protests largely led by Muslim women. Protesters and activists were of the view that the CAA coupled with NRC will lead to the disenfranchisement of millions of Muslims.  The CAA was particularly discriminatory against Muslims. The United Nations special rapporteur on minorities has also called the CAA “fundamentally discriminatory” towards Muslims and other minorities.

The CAA debate wasn’t just over and India found out a new reason to blame Muslims. The recent global outbreak of COVID-19 has been used to point the fingers at Muslims. Muslims are blamed as the carrier of coronavirus in India. Several violent attacks have been reported from different parts of the country.

There have been reports of meetings in gated communities considering the ban on Muslims being allowed in. The reports of banning the entry of Muslims in villages also emerged and entry points of villages are discriminately monitored to disallow the Muslims coming in. Muslim vendors have also been asked to stop selling on the streets. Indian Government is often blamed to side with the instigators. An Indian Legislator Suresh Tiwari in the Northern State of Uttar Pradesh, reportedly, asked not to purchase the vegetables from Muslims.

Some ruling BJP’s politicians and journalists were also seen accusing Muslims of spreading the coronavirus. Even Mosques are no more safe as a group of men in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district allegedly vandalized a Mosque and attacked the Muezzin.

There were, reportedly, only three people in the Mosque as permitted by the police at the time of the attack. It seems like the COVID-19 Pandemic is seen as an opportunity to launch a fresh attack on the Muslim community. Muslims are confronting physical, verbal, and psychological warfare ever since the Bhartiya Janta Party is elected to power.

There is a sudden surge in Islamophobic hashtags and posts on different social media platforms accusing Muslims of spreading the virus. Terms like “corona terrorism,” and “corona jihad” have been coined to label the Muslim community. The world health body and majority countries of the world like the U.S., France, the U.K. traces China as the origin of coronavirus but some of the egoistic and ill-informed Indians are determined to blame Muslims as the originator and spreader of COVID-19.

The most recent wave of conspiracy against the Muslims started when news spread that people who had attended a large gathering of Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi had tested positive for the COVID-19. People arrived from several countries to attend the event and it was suspected that they may have introduced the virus into the congregation.

The conservative BJP-led Government also played a key role and created a separate column of Tablighi Jamaat-related cases in its daily briefings. This act of the government made the impression that the Muslim movement is the main culprit. Resultantly, all Muslims across India are now perceived as potential carriers of this virus and are therefore shunned and hated.

About Noshin Bashir

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