USCIRF’s “International Religious Freedom” Report — an Attack on India

USCIRF’s “International Religious Freedom” Report — an Attack on India

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The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which should have been shut down in 2016, but was infused with funds by the Congress to continue to provide employment to mediocrities and faceless bureaucrats, offers a platform for nine politically compromised commissioners to preen and build their beltway network of influence. The USCIRF should be labeled an organization of particular concern, as some have argued, and it is time for American taxpayers to stop this institutional affront to good political and human sense.

The USCIRF website claims that “USCIRF’s nine Commissioners are appointed by either the President or Congressional leaders of each political party, supported by a non-partisan professional staff.” We can wonder as much as we can how that staff is vetted for their non-partisanship, even as they pursue the partisan agendas of their politically appointed commissioners. The USCIRF claims to do a lot, but where is the measure to find out if anything they say or do has any purchase, and what they do does anything more than serve the partisan interests of monopolist, supremacist, violent “faith” groups and their scheming, manipulative America-based influence seekers?

The USCIRF has become another symbol of American interventionism in the affairs of sovereign states, and that it has bipartisan political support, and that it is the brainchild of US legislators goes to show that our willingness to undermine sovereign states continues undiminished. We mock the United Nations, and even our own State Department, in these matters of human rights, religious freedom, etc., usurping the role of international organizations and experienced diplomats. We don for ourselves the garb of the world’s policeman, the world’s confessor, the world’s primary scold, bully, and the predominant if not the only intimidating, hectoring didact.

So it is that this “panel”, which was created in 1998 by an Act of Congress, to “advise the President, Congress and the State Department on the plight of persecuted religious groups worldwide,” after two decades of trying to influence and recurve the religious map of the world, has now been on a three-year binge demanding that India be labeled a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC). This year, its commissioners, or shall we say, “religion commissars,” have had the gall to say this in their annual report: “In 2021, religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened.” But they offer no measure, no data, except a couple of handpicked, unverified, unverifiable, egregious examples where a Hindu or some Hindus were involved in an attack on a member of some “minority” group, and which made the global echo chamber rounds of Western media, Al Jazeera, and the zillion Christian church newsletters that subsist to “bear false witness” against other religious faiths.

The USCIRF report then claims that “During the year, the Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies — including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities”. So, what were these Hindu nationalist agendas? Did it include efforts to shut down churches and mosques, or to imprison the provocative and politically active high priests of Indian churches who berate the Indian government, and who issue directions to their parishioners to vote against the present government in office? How did the Dalits become a “religious minority” when they are Hindu? What about the extremist group of Sikhs and their Canada, UK, and US-funded attempts to destabilize the Indian Government, and bring life to a standstill in the state of Punjab and in Delhi this past year, and whose extremist agenda includes carving out the state of “Khalistan”?

The Commissars then assert that “The government continued to systemize its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities”. If there are existing laws and the Constitution of India urges the executive and the legislature to follow certain rules and to make laws within the ambit of the Constitution, how can they be used to “systemize the ideological vision of a Hindu state”? And what is that nature of the “Hindu state” that these Commissars are afraid of?

In fact, this “Hindu state” denies its majority Hindus what is offered the so-called minorities. For example, minorities in India are allowed control over their religious institutions whereas it is some of the state governments, many a time willfully anti-Hindu, as in the state of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, now, that are in control of Hindu temples, and from which they drain vast sums of money to appease their “minorities” and to pander to “minority vote banks”. To this day, the Indian Central Government has not been able to or has been unwilling to bring changes in the law to ensure the handing of Hindu temples back to Hindus to manage and take care of. As Swami Venkataraman says, “The Indian Constitution confers extraordinary protections on minorities. But crucially, the equality promised under Articles 14 and 15 and the freedom to manage religious affairs under Articles 25(1) and 26 are abrogated for Hindus, and Hindus alone, in the matter of their temples by recourse to Article 25(2)(a). By considering temple finances a secular matter, the tentacles of the state are now deeply entrenched into purely religious matters such as the conduct of puja and other rituals”. So, if the Washington, DC based “religion commissars” think that the BJP-led government in Delhi is systemizing its “ideological vision of a Hindu state” then why are they keeping mum that the same government is discriminating against the majority Hindus?

Or as R. Jagannathan points out, that in India today, “in a complete perversion of this (Hindu) civilisational heritage, even yoga and the mere re-run of the hugely popular Ramayana and Mahabharata serials on Doordarshan is seen as an antithesis of secularism, an imposition by Hindutva ideologues,” and where India’s highest court “…delegitimised the practice of excluding women in the reproductive age from entering the (Hindu) shrine”. How can the commissars ignore these blatant assaults on Hindus in the one country that they can call their own, but instead carry on their campaign of Hindu vilification?

What about Hindus being minorities in some states in India, and they being denied minority status, which would allow them to run their own educational institutions, without interference or onerous demands from the state, as “minorities” are offered in India, and the Hindu majority is denied?

The commissars are clueless. They are clueless about the twenty million or so Bangladesh Muslims who have migrated, illegally, into India for both economic reasons and by being lured into the country to bulk up vote banks. Why would so many Bangladeshis migrate to India if Hindus were such a violent and discriminating lot as portrayed by these commissars? They are clueless about the daily atrocities and crimes committed against Hindus by the so-called “minorities”. They are clueless about the Indian “National Commission for Minorities” and the “Ministry of Minority Affairs” that not just bat for the so-called minorities of India but whose members ensure the continuing disparities in favor of the minorities against the so-called Hindu majority. Is there a federal department in the US dealing solely with the concerns and affairs of “minorities” in the US?

Yes, these commissars know, and they have “heard” of the horrors of religious persecution, especially of Christians and Muslims, whispered in their ears by paid mischief-makers masquerading as “interfaith leaders”. They have been doing so for decades. But we know what this annual macabre dance is all about: the leverage and the tools that will be offered to US lawmakers and the DC establishment to yank the chain of some leaders in some countries, or to poke their fingers in the eyes of others they wish to bring to heel. The USCIRF list is used by global lobbying agencies to discourage investors from investing in the country concerned, but then business is business, unless the US Government decides to sanction some government for other geopolitical reasons. More importantly, the USCIRF annual dung-throwing exercise is mainly used to dent a particular country’s soft power and global image. In turn, this annual, superfluous effluent emerging from the vast pipes of political gamesmanship in DC is made use of by media inimical to certain groups, countries, or peoples. The New York Times, The Washington Post, or National Public Radio that are viscerally Hinduphobic, and the Associated Press and the Reuters News Agency now peddling woke outrage, get their one-day dose of “news” to spread across a gullible world.

The 2022 report lists 15 countries of “particular concern” and another twelve as on their “special watch list”. Of these 27 countries, three are majority Christian (Eritrea, Nigeria, Russia); five are communist (China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and Nicaragua), and sixteen are majority Muslim (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Iran, Syria, Turkmenistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan), one majority Buddhist (Myanmar), and one majority Hindu. Of the 193 UN member states, 119 states are majority Christian, 50 are majority Muslim, and they fight each other to the death in countries where they are the two major religious groups.

Having conquered the world, decimated populations, and destroyed cultures, faith members of these two, monopolist, supremacist, and violent “world religions” now seek to carry out their religious writ through the media and global institutions as well as through the so-called “international religious freedom” and “interfaith” groups. That they lure into their fold Hindus and have them do their bidding is also obvious to those of us who closely follow the work done by the international religious freedom and interfaith groups.

For example, look at the people who are nominated as USCIRF commissioners. Anurima Bhargava, one of the commissioners, by name a Hindu, and appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is just a busybody whose work in promoting “dignity and justice” or “equity and belonging” or addressing “harassment and discrimination” has assured herself a pathway to cushy DC positions of power and influence. We only wish she could have remained in Chicago, her hometown, and done something about the increasing violence in the windy city. No, instead we have this deracinated person, clueless about the religious dynamic in India, deaf to the plea of Hindu groups in the US, in bed with her monopolist colleagues and signing off on an anti-Hindu, anti-India screed.

Given the fractious nature of American politics, the continuing and powerful presence and influence of religious groups, mostly Christian, but also increasingly Jewish and Muslim, in Washington, DC, and the American establishment’s firm belief in their own grand plans for the world, we will continue to see the support and funding for an institution like the USCIRF, and the daily pilgrimage that “faith leaders” and their representatives make to the USCIRF’s DC office. I too have visited their offices a few times, as part of the Hindu American Foundation’s efforts to educate the commissioners of the dire threats against Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and elsewhere, and about the machinations of proselytizing groups in India, and understood the nature of the trap set by such institutions. If we don’t go complaining to them about the harm being done to us somewhere or the other in the world, then we will miss the chance to be heard by them, and maybe the chance to influence the manufacturing of their annual reports. So, we join the influential groups who do have the ear of the commissioners in this destructive practice in this dangerous exercise and usurpation of power.

Interestingly, the only such “free speech,” “human rights,” and “religious freedom” promoting institutions are maintained and run by the US and by EU countries — former colonists and present-day world powers. We wish, that on the fine buildings they occupy, and in the fat volumes they publish periodically, are permanently etched this slogan: “We robbed you of your wealth, your wellbeing, your sense of self, and we then set you free; but we will make sure that you will always be under our influence, and we will watch you become good, moral beings.”

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of any information in this article.

Dr. Ramesh Rao

The author is Professor of Communication Studies, Department of Communication,  Columbus State University, Columbus, GA. He serves as the Chief Editor of India Facts at present. Views expressed are personal.