Religious freedom in India under attack in Modi era, says US govt body

Religious freedom in India under attack in Modi era, says US govt body

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom says Modi govt is ‘encouraging’ mob violence against minorities.

Updated: 2 May, 2019 12:06 pm IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi | ThePrint

New Delhi: Religious freedom is under attack in India, with the Narendra Modi government “allowing and encouraging” mob violence against minorities, a US government agency engaged in the field has said in its annual report.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has listed India among ‘tier-2’ nations — defined as “countries of particular concern or CPC” that “engage in or tolerate” violation of religious freedom.

Others on the list include Afghanistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.

“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,” the report for 2019 says.

While the victims never got justice for the treatment they received, it adds, new crimes committed against the minorities were not prosecuted.

According to the report, the history of religious freedom in India has come under severe 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”.

The report, however, seeks to emphasise that religious freedom in India varies from state to state. While some states continue to remain open and free for religious minorities, others encourage “systematic, ongoing, egregious” violations of religious freedom, it adds.

The USCIRF had made a similar observation about India in its annual report for 2018, saying religious freedom in the country continued to indicate a downward trend.

China slammed for Uighur excesses

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US government advisory body. It is separate from the US Department of State, and monitors religious freedom abroad. It offers policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and the US Congress.

Its report for 2019 also calls out China for its treatment of Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims.

It cites the detention camps China has set up to “re-educate” the primarily-Muslim Uighurs into renouncing Islam, referring to reports that the Chinese government has detained 8 lakh-20 lakh Uighur and other Muslims in the Xinjiang province.

The report also talks about allegations that the Chinese Communist Party had deployed 10 lakh party cadres to live with Uighur Muslim families and report on any signs of “extremist” religious behaviour.

“The USCIRF received credible reports that Chinese security services and their affiliates attempted to harass and intimidate Uighur Muslims living overseas, including in the United States,” the report adds.

The commission has recommended that the US Congress support legislation that would restrict the export of advanced technology, including surveillance and biometric equipment, to China in order to the curb Beijing’s ability “to monitor and harass religious and ethnic communities”.

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