Extremist narratives destroying religious freedom in India: US report

Published: June 24, 2019
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The file photo shows members of the vigilante group Gau Raksha Dal (Cow Protection Squad) inspect a truck on a highway in Taranagar in the desert state of Rajasthan, India. PHOTO: AFP

The file photo shows members of the vigilante group Gau Raksha Dal (Cow Protection Squad) inspect a truck on a highway in Taranagar in the desert state of Rajasthan, India. PHOTO: AFP

An annual report published by the United States highlights the “downward trend” witnessed in religious freedom in India and accuses New Delhi of “engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations”.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Annual Report 2019 places India on ‘Tier 2’ for actions it said “meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)”.

The report states that India’s “history of religious freedom has come under attack in recent years with the growth of exclusionary extremist narratives — including, at times, the government’s allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities — that have facilitated an egregious and ongoing campaign of violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindu and lower-caste Hindu minorities.”

“A multifaceted campaign by Hindu nationalist groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution.”

Saffronisation of religious minorities in India

It further states that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “seldom made statements decrying mob violence, and certain members of his political party have affiliations with Hindu extremist groups and used inflammatory language about religious minorities publicly.”

“In 2018, approximately one-third of state governments increasingly enforced anti-conversion and/or anti-cow slaughter laws discriminatorily against non-Hindus and Dalits alike.”

The report also highlights the rising prevalence of mob violence in India. “Cow protection mobs engaged in violence predominantly targeting Muslims and Dalits, some of whom have been legally involved in the dairy, leather, or beef trades for generations. Mob violence was also carried out against Christians under accusations of forced or induced religious conversion.”

“In February 2018, Minister of State at the Ministry of Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir reported to parliament that 111 people were murdered and 2,384 injured in 822 communal clashes during 2017 (as compared to 86 people killed and 2,321 injured in 703 incidents the previous year),” reads the annual report.

It states that “police investigations and prosecutions often were not adequately pursued”, particularly when cases involved “mobs killing an individual based on false accusations of cow slaughter or forced conversion.”

Apathy and impunity

As per the report, the Supreme Court of India last year concluded that “certain state governments were not doing enough to stop violence against religious minorities and, in some extreme instances, impunity was being granted to criminals engaged in communal violence.”

“Victims of large-scale attacks in recent years have not been granted justice, and reports of new crimes committed against religious minorities were not adequately accounted for or prosecuted.”

Muslims in India today are revisiting the same fears as they did in 1947

The annual report further said that rules for registration of internationally-funded non-governmental organisations were also “discriminatorily implemented against religious minority groups.”

In conclusion, the report states, “USCIRF again places India on its Tier 2 for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)”.

 

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