A Hindu organization based in America has dismissed a critical report sponsored by a U.S. government religious freedom commission, describing it as “hinduphobia” and alleging that it was biased.
Earlier this month, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), released a study about the quickly eroding religious freedoms in India by Pakistani-American author Iqtidar Cheema.
Cheema, the director for Institute for Leadership and Community Development in Birmingham, England, alleged in his report that Dalits and other religious minorities continue to face discrimination and persecution in India.
The report also claimed that there are constitutional provisions as well as state and national laws that are not in compliance with international standards of freedom of religion or belief, according to Link Newspaper.
HAF Executive Director Suhag Shukla suggested that Cheema was unreliable because he had “consistently advocated for Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives.” She also alleged that his work provides cover to Pakistan’s long-standing support of a proxy war to separate Jammu and Kashmir from India.
Additionally, Shukla asserted that Cheema was often quoted by various organizations that endorse a separatist movement that calls for a separate Sikh state called Khalistan.
The USCIRF report also cited India’s anti-conversion laws, the treatment of Dalits, and cow protection legislation as points of concern. Cow slaughter is banned in most Indian states, and many vigilante cow protection groups feel empowered to attack religious minorities, such as Muslims, who do not regard the cow as sacred.
Many Dalits and other low-caste Hindus have reportedly admitted that they convert to Islam or Christianity in order to escape caste prejudice and oppression.
The HAF accused USCIRF of misunderstanding the “nature and intent” of cow protection laws, and of asserting “that caste-based discrimination is a Hindu religious teaching, rather than a pernicious social problem blighting all Indian religious communities today.”
“This report’s egregious display of Hinduphobia in linking caste-based discrimination to the Hindu religion is unprecedented, and must be condemned,” Shukla said, as reported by Religion News Service.
India has been in the USCIRF watch list of Tier-II countries, along with Afghanistan, Turkey, Russia and others, since 2009.
The Indian external affairs ministry rejected the study, as it did earlier reports in 2015 and 2016. “We have serious doubts on their credibility,” said ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup about USCIRF.