The International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religious Belief (IPPFoRB) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise their concerns for ongoing developments in India and the implications for freedom of religion or belief.
The International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) is a network of parliamentarians and legislators from around the world committed to combatting religious persecution and advancing freedom of religion or belief.
The IPPFoRB has expressed its concern with regards to the recent National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise that was carried out in Assam and left over 19 lakh people ‘stateless’. In Assam, after the NRC exercise, the government confined to detention camps, around 988 ‘foreigners’ all who they thought were illegal immigrants. 29 people have died in these detention camps and reports of the government not providing the basic facilities to these detainees, most of them who are women and children, have surfaced.
Currently the Indian government has announced the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and a possible nation-wide NRC. The CAA seeks to grant citizenship to religiously persecuted Hindus, Jain, Catholics, Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis from the countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangaldesh. The country has erupted in protests against the Act as it is set to have a potential impact on Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, women, the transgender community and other marginalized groups.
The letter read, “We wish to express concern that the recent efforts to update the National Register of itizens in Assam has negatively impacted Bengali Muslims. With 1.9 million names left off of the updated final list, there are fears that this implicitly creates a religious requirement for citizenship, potentially leaving those denied citizenship stateless. While we understand the importance of verifiable citizenship for any nation, we hope that the integrity of this process will not be compromised to unfairly target religious minorities. We request your government to work closely with local authorities to verify that no Indian citizens are disenfranchised simply because of their religious identity.”
Speaking about the abrogation of Article 370 and the transformation of Jammu and Kashmir from a state to a Union Territory, the parliamentarians expressed their concern of the move on the freedom of religion. After the government abrogated Article 370, Kashmir was put under an indefinite blockade. Communications were hit, internet and telephone lines suspended, trade went bust, emergency facilities suffered and nobody could report the ground reality for the media was banned there.
The letter of the parliamentarians read, “Prohibitions on assemblies led to the cancellation of Muharram processions; restrictions on movement have limited the ability to visit mosques, particularly during Eid celebrations; and the shuttering of mosques with concerns of anti-government activity. While understanding the political difficulty of that situation, measures should be put into place to protect Kashmiris’ right to freely practice their religion or belief.”
The letter also mentioned the growing incidents of mob-related violence against minorities, especially the Muslims and said, “While these kinds of issues are in no way unique to India, we encourage you to take concrete measures to protect religious minority communities and their ability to freely practice their faith, embracing the traditions found within India’s great history.”
The entire letter by the IPPFoRB may be read below.