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“Deeply biased, selective usage of facts”: India rejects USCIRF report on religious freedom

"We have noted the release by the US State Department of its report on international religious Freedom for 2023. As in the past, the report is deeply biased, lacks an understanding of India's social fabric, and is visibly driven by votebank considerations and a prescriptive outlook. We therefore reject it,” Jaiswal said.

On Friday (28th June), the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) rejected the US State Department’s report on international religious freedom calling it “deeply biased”. MEA stated that the report published by USCIRF lacked an understanding of India’s social fabric.

Criticising the report during a media interaction today, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said that the report is deeply driven by vote bank considerations.

“We have noted the release by the US State Department of its report on international religious Freedom for 2023. As in the past, the report is deeply biased, lacks an understanding of India’s social fabric, and is visibly driven by votebank considerations and a prescriptive outlook. We therefore reject it,” Jaiswal said.

He further pointed out that the USCIRF report is a blend of misrepresentations, imputations, reliance on biased sources and one-sided projection of issues. In addition, Jaiswal emphasised that the report, in some cases, questions the validity of constitutional provisions and laws.

“The excise itself is a mix of imputations, misrepresentations, selective usage of facts, reliance on biased sources, and a one-sided projection of issues. This extends even to the depiction of our constitutional provisions and duly enacted laws of India. It has selectively picked incidents to advance a preconceived narrative as well. In some cases, the very validity of laws and regulations are questioned by the report, as are the right of legislatures to enact them. The report also appears to challenge the integrity of certain legal judgments given by Indian courts,” Jaiswal said.

The MEA spokesperson also highlighted that the US State Department report targeted the regulations monitoring the financial flow into India. While the US insinuates that there is no need for such measures and compliance to the same is “unreasonable”, they have even more strict laws in this regard.

“The excise itself is a mix of imputations, misrepresentations, selective usage of facts, reliance on biased sources, and a one-sided projection of issues. This extends even to the depiction of our constitutional provisions and duly enacted laws of India. It has selectively picked incidents to advance a preconceived narrative as well. In some cases, the very validity of laws and regulations are questioned by the report, as are the right of legislatures to enact them. The report also appears to challenge the integrity of certain legal judgments given by Indian courts,” Randhir Jaiswal said.

Randhir Jaiswal also stated that human rights and respect for diversity are legitimate topics for conversation between India and the United States. He emphasised India’s continuous efforts to combat hate crimes, racial attacks on Indian nationals and other minorities in the United States, vandalism, and the targeting of places of worship. However, he cautioned against using such conversation as a pretext for foreign intervention in domestic issues.

“In 2023, India has officially taken up numerous cases in the US of hate crimes, racial attacks on Indian nationals and other minorities, vandalisation and targeting of places of worship, violence and mistreatment by law enforcement authorities, as well as according to political space to advocates of extremism and terrorism abroad. However, such dialogue should not become a license for foreign interference in other polities,” the MEA spokesperson said.

This comes after the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an organisation India has strongly criticised in the past, again raised ‘concerns’ over religious freedoms, citing the alleged rise in ‘hate speech’, demolitions and anti-conversion laws. The USCIRF report came a few weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his third term in office and India and the United States agreed to strengthen cooperation in high technology areas during a visit by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to New Delhi.

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