03:50 GMT28 February 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): A Sikh rights group, Sikhs for Justice, has given a briefing to the US Commission on International Freedom (USCIF) on issues including the recently enacted citizenship law, suspension of communication in the restive Jammu and Kashmir region and alleged persecution of the Sikh community in India.

    The rights group which has been actively working for Khalistan Movement, demanding a separate independent country for the Sikh community, has appealed to the Commission to place India on the Tier 1 list that recognises states with the harshest level of repression.

    "Citing the worsening religious persecution of Muslims, Sikhs and other minorities, we have urged the USCIRF to place India on the Tier 1 Countries list during its next assessment report on the condition of religious freedom around the world," said attorney of the human rights group Gurpatwant Singh Pannum.

    The group drew the Commission's attention to protests over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, that have caused clashes and vandalism leading to hundreds of people being injured and 25 killed. The law, which provides citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, has been opposed by several political parties and civil rights groups that say it is discriminatory.

    "The problem that remains overlooked, is that the core of the problem lies within the Constitution of India itself, which is neither truly secular nor does it protect or treat people of non-Hindu faiths equally," said the letter to the Commission, describing the lack of religious freedom for Muslims in India.

    "What Muslims are facing in India today, the Sikh community has been facing since 1950 when they were labelled as Hindus in the Constitution," it further stated.

    Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a US-based group launched Referendum 2020, seeking a separate homeland for Sikhs - a "Khalistan" in the Indian state of Punjab.

    India's federal government has banned SFJ as a separatist group, on the grounds of its secessionism and alleged anti-national activities.



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