The United States government has claimed in an annual report that Indian authorities “frequently did not prosecute members of vigilante cow-protection groups who attacked alleged smugglers, consumers, or traders of beef, usually Muslims, despite an increase in attacks compared to previous years.”
The International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, put together by the US State Department every year, was released by US’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.
“Advancing liberty and religious freedom advances America’s interests. Where fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, press, and peaceful assembly are under attack, we find conflict, instability, and terrorism,” Pompeo said in his opening remarks at the time of releasing the report.
“On the other hand, governments and societies that champion these freedoms are more secure, stable, and peaceful,” added Pompeo. The Secretary of State also said that he would host leaders from across the world at a conference on religious liberty over July 25 and 26.
The yearly report took a critical view of certain leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh and UP’s Yogi Adityanath, for making “public remarks that individuals could interpret as condoning violence.”
“On April 2, Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister Raman Singh said anyone who killed a cow in his state would be hanged,” it mentions. The document also refers to then parliamentarian, and currently Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) chief minister, Yogi Adityanath for saying that “Mother Teresa had been on a mission to Christianize India.”
The report further highlights that BJP leaders were tacitly backing people accused of carrying out mob-lynchings of Muslims, as it mentioned the September 2015 incident involving the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.
“In October 2017 media reported a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state legislator in Uttar Pradesh was working to help the 18 charged individuals out on bail secure employment and the family of one of the accused that died in jail would receive 800,000 rupees ($12,500),” it said.
The report also notes, “Members of civil society and religious minorities stated that under the current government, religious minority communities felt increasingly vulnerable due to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against non-Hindu individuals and their places of worship.”
The religious liberty report also mentions the surge in attacks on Christians under the current government, noting that they had jumped from 348 in 2016 to 736 in 2017. The figures were taken from the Union of Catholic Asian News, as per the US report.
The report goes on to scrutinise the role of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Ministry of Home Affairs, noting that the government agencies had been accused of coming out with misleading reports on communal violence on several occasions.
Dwelling on the sectarian violence in Kairana in 2013, the report says that the National Human Rights’ Commission’s (NHRC) claims that members of Muslims community were responsible for driving out Hindus from the affected areas had been disputed by human rights activists.
“Human rights activists acting on behalf of the Muslim community in Kairana, such as Harsh Mander, disputed the NHRC’s findings that Hindus had been driven out by Muslim crime and called on the NHRC to withdraw and apologize for the report, which the human rights activists stated had been used to spread prejudice against the Muslim community,” it states.
The report also says, “Although MHA stated there were no major outbreaks of communal violence in the country in 2015, statistics showed an increase in overall instances of communal violence reported compared to the previous year when the MHA recorded 644 communal incidents, resulting in 95 deaths and 1,921 injuries.”
The International Religious Freedom Report has often come under attack for not focussing on the state of religious freedom within the United States, even as it scrutinises religious liberties in other countries.