American Turban

USCIRF 2015 Annual Report addresses religious freedom of Sikhs in India

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recently published its 2015 Annual Report. (Source: USCIRF.)

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recently published its 2015 Annual Report. (Source: USCIRF.)

In its 2015 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) continued to express concern about the state of religious freedom in India, particularly after the election of current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Placing India in its “Tier 2” category (which the USCIRF defines as “countries where the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and are characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ standard”), the Commission explicitly addresses the experiences of the Sikh minority in India:

India’s Sikh community has long pursued a change to Article 25 of India’s constitution which states, “Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons Reportedly, local police seldom provide protection, refuse to accept complaints, rarely investigate, and in a few cases encourage Christians to move or hide their religion. USCIRF | ANNUAL REPORT 2015 151 INDIA professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.” The lack of recognition of Sikhism as a distinct religion denies Sihks access to social services or employment and educational preferences that are available to other religious minority communities and to scheduled caste Hindus. (This is also true for the other faiths listed in Article 25.) Sikhs are often harassed and pressured to reject religious practices and beliefs that are distinct to Sikhism, such as dress, unshorn hair, and the carrying of religious items, including the kirpan.

…Since 1984 there has been little progress in prosecuting perpetrators of crimes during the anti-Sikh riots, which allegedly occurred with the support or encouragement of government officials or prominent members of India’s Congress Party. However, in late 2014 the central government established a committee to determine if a Special Investigation Team should be created to reinvestigate cases that had been previously closed.

The Commission  was created out of the passing of the International Religious Freedom Act (signed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton) and monitors the status of religious freedom around the world to make recommendations for US policy — in this report, the USCIRF makes specific recommendations to the US government around addressing with India issues around religious rights and freedoms, many of which are based in concerns that have been regularly expressed by the Commission in previous reports.

Read the full 2015 Annual Report here and see a discussion of the 2012 Annual Report here.

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