US commission concerned by India's transnational repression against religious minorities

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)Campaign to stop violence against Christians in India on square in front of United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on June 23, 2021 during a session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) says it is alarmed by India's increased transnational targeting of religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf.

Recent efforts by the Indian government to silence activists, journalists, and lawyers abroad pose a serious threat to religious freedom said the commission on Dec. 15.

"Due to India's systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief, USCIRF implores the U.S. Department of State to designate India a Country of Particular Concern (CPC)," said the commission.

"The Indian government's alleged involvement in the killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada and the plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the United States are deeply troubling," said USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck.

He said that the Indian activity represent a severe escalation of India's efforts to silence religious minorities and human rights defenders both within its country and abroad,

Schneck said, "We call on the Biden administration to acknowledge the Indian government's perpetration of particularly severe religious freedom violations and designate it as a country of particular concern (CPC)."

The Indian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters news agency reported.


It said that the Indian government routinely denies any discrimination in the Hindu-majority country.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said this month that an Indian national had worked with an unnamed Indian government employee on the plot to assassinate a New York City resident who advocated for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India. India's government has denied involvement in the plot, said te Reuters report.

The commission said transnational repression occurs when states use intimidation, harassment, or violence against those living outside their borders.

Transnational repression campaigns often target political and human rights activists, journalists, and members of religious and ethnic minority groups.

The commission said that in extreme cases, tactics include detention, reprisals against family members, kidnapping, or, as illustrated by India, assassinations.

In November 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice published an indictment alleging the Indian government's attempt to assassinate a Sikh activist was intended to prompt a series of additional killings in the United States and Canada.

In addition, said the commission, Indian authorities have used spyware and online harassment campaigns to target and intimidate journalists and activists abroad advocating on behalf of religious minorities.

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's State Visit to the United States in June, comments from the head of India's Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) information and technology department, Amit Malviya, prompted an online campaign against U.S. Wall Street Journal journalist Sabrina Siddiqui for posing a question about religious freedom conditions in India, according to the commission.

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