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MEA Accuses US Body of Interference in India's Elections Over Religious Freedom Report

India is among the countries that were named as Countries of Particular Concern for the fifth consecutive year in its annual report.
Screenshot from MEA's media briefing stream.

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs has accused the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a US federal government entity, of interfering in India’s electoral exercise by recommending that India should be classified as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for the fifth consecutive year in its annual report.

USCIRF released its annual report on Wednesday (May 1). It again said that India should be classified as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’. It has been making this recommendation to the State Department since 2020, which has so far ignored it.

MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal, in response to the report, on Thursday (May 2) claimed that the USCIRF is interfering in India’s election.

“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,” he said.

“We really have no expectation that USCIRF will even seek to understand India’s diverse, pluralistic and democratic ethos. Their efforts to interfere in the largest electoral exercise of the world will never succeed,” he added.

When asked to clarify whether India was accusing the US government which funds the USCIRF of interfering in the elections, Jaiswal replied, “We have said what we had to say. We have made our reservations known on this particular organisation earlier as well. So, please I would urge you to read our statement in fine print. You will get your answer. Also, I would urge you to look at the report, page to page, and see the kind of observations made there. You will have your own judgement on those issues”.

Last week, India had dismissed the US State Department’s annual country report on human rights which had accused India of similar violations. However, India had not accused the US State department of interfering in the Indian elections.

What does the report say

The report, released on Wednesday (May 1), highlights the state of religious freedom abroad.

Under the US’s International Religious Freedom Act, or IRFA, the guaranteed right to freedom of religion or belief is a priority in the US’s foreign policy.

In the 2024 annual report, the USCIRF recommended 17 countries as Countries of Particular Concern and 11 countries for placement on the Special Watch List.

India is among the countries that were named as Countries of Particular Concern.

The other nations include Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

The report also spoke about the Narendra Modi government’s discriminatory policies and its failure to handle communal violence.

Notably, most of the communal violence incidents (1,488) in the last decade happened in Uttar Pradesh, according to an analysis of home ministry data by IndiaSpend.

Also read: What We Need in India Is Freedom From Religion

‘Discriminatory policies, communal violence’

“In 2023, religious freedom conditions in India continued to deteriorate. The government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), reinforced discriminatory nationalist policies, perpetuated hateful rhetoric, and failed to address communal violence disproportionately affecting Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Jews, and Adivasis (indigenous peoples),” the USCIRF report said.

“Continued enforcement of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and anti-conversion and cow slaughter laws resulted in the arbitrary detention, monitoring, and targeting of religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf,” it added.

Crackdown on media, NGOs

“Both news media and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reporting on religious minorities were subjected to strict monitoring under FCRA regulations.”

“In February 2023, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the FCRA license of the Centre for Policy Research, an NGO dedicated to reporting on social issues and state capacity, including discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.”

“Similarly, authorities raided the offices and homes of NewsClick journalists, including Teesta Setalvad for her reporting on anti-Muslim violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots.”

Violence against Christians

In 2023, NGOs documented 687 instances of violence perpetrated against Christians, who continued to be detained under various state-level anti-conversion laws.

In January, Hindu mobs attacked Christians in Chhattisgarh. The incident saw churches being destroyed, people attempting to “reconvert” individuals to Hinduism, according to the report.

Approximately 30 individuals faced physical assault for refusing to abandon their religious beliefs. Concurrently, two Christians were arrested without the option of bail, accused of forcibly converting members of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.

Also read: Why Is the ‘Strongest PM’ India Has Ever Had Silent on Adani, Brijbhushan, Manipur and China?


“In June 2023, more than 500 churches and two synagogues were destroyed and over 70,000 people displaced during clashes in Manipur. Home minister Amit Shah received widespread criticism, including by United Nations (UN) experts, for his delayed response to the violence.”


“In December, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the government’s 2019 revocation of Article 370, dissolving special status and autonomy to the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Indian authorities continued to detain and harass Kashmiri journalists, religious leaders, and human rights defenders. Journalist Irfan Mehraj was arrested in March for his reporting on marginalised religious minorities,” the report said.

Mob violence

Giving several examples, it said that throughout the year, violence against Muslims and their places of worship continued.

One of the instances mentioned include the Nuh incident in Haryana, where communal violence had erupted in July after a Hindu procession, during which participants carrying swords chanted anti-Muslim slogans.

It also mentioned the incident of the Indian railway guard killing three Muslim men inside a train bound for Mumbai. The perpetrator reportedly inquired about the victims’ names, indicating their religious identity, before fatally shooting them.


It also flagged the Gurpatwant Singh Pannun case, saying: “Indian authorities also increasingly engaged in acts of transnational repression targeting religious minorities abroad.”

“In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged Indian authorities’ involvement in the killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, which was followed by a plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the United States in November.”

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