Religious communal violence against Muslims has brought India under the radar of a United States (US) government panel noting religious freedom in countries. India’s Foreign Ministry has rejected the observation.
In its annual report released on Wednesday, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) lists India in its “countries of particular concern” due to the violence waged against Muslims under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. In a report by Live Law, it is recorded that USCIRF has recommended India as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for the first time since 2004. Apart from India, other countries on the list are Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
The report highlighted the dwindling state of religious freedom in India with increased attacks on religious minorities after the re-election of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in May 2019. Referring to the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and the repression of its invited nationwide dissent, lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir, mob lynchings under the guise of cow-protection, and suggestion to maintain a National Register of Citizens, the report brings attention to the basis of its recommendation.
USCIRF notes in the report: “During 2019, discriminatory policies, inflammatory rhetoric, and tolerance for violence against minorities at the national, state, and local level increased the climate of fear among non-Hindu communities. After the reporting period, India continued on this negative trajectory. In February 2020, three days of violence erupted in Delhi with mobs attacking Muslim neighborhoods. There were reports of Delhi police, operating under the Home Ministry’s authority, failing to halt attacks and even directly participating in the violence. At least 50 people were killed.”
With national level policies breaching the secular identity of India, “The national government has allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence,” the annual report further remarks.
The Indian government, however, does not entertain the report and considers it biased. The government has a sour history of dealing with the Commission’s statements, and passed this accusation up by calling it a “misinterpretation”.
“We regard it as an organisation of particular concern and will treat it accordingly,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.
Image Credit: National Review