India rejects report based on “misinformation and flawed understanding”
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US next month, State Department’s 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom highlights what it calls “continued targeted attacks against religious communities” in India.
In a background briefing ahead of the release of the report by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Monday, a senior State Department official said he had “been saddened to see what is outlined in today’s report.”
The report highlights “a targeted – continued targeted attacks against religious communities, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu Dalits, and indigenous communities.”
Read: USCIRF for targeted sanctions against India for religious freedom violations (May 2, 2023)
It speaks of “dehumanizing rhetoric, including open calls for genocide against Muslims; lynching and other hate-fueled violence, attacks on houses of worship and home demolitions, and in some cases impunity and even clemency for those who’ve engaged in attacks on religious minorities.”
“We’re also continuing to see, at the state level, some restrictions on religious attire,” said the official who has “spent a good amount of time in India and have experienced firsthand the phenomenal culture of the country, the vast potential, the people of the country.”
“We’ll continue to speak directly with our colleagues and counterparts in India regarding these concerns,” he said. “We’re continuing to encourage the government to condemn violence and hold accountable and protect all groups who engage in rhetoric that’s dehumanizing towards religious minorities and all groups who engage in violence against religious communities and other communities in India.”
“There’s been a significant attention, of course, from the international community on the situation in India, including human rights organizations.” the official said.
“The US Holocaust Museum continues to draw considerable attention to the human rights situation in India and lists it as one of its top countries of concern and with – with regards to potential for mass killings there,” he said.
“So we’ll continue to work very closely with our civil society colleagues on the ground, with courageous journalists that are working every day to document some of these abuses, and we’ll continue speaking directly with our counterparts in India to address these issues,” the official said.
On his part US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain, an Indian American, highlighted “a case of extreme hate speech against Muslims in the city of Haridwar.”
Read: India slams USCIRF report on religious freedom in India (November 25, 2022)
“In India, legal advocates and faith leaders from across the country’s diverse religious communities condemned a case of extreme hate speech against Muslims in the city of Haridwar, calling for the country to uphold its historical traditions of pluralism and tolerance,” he said.
Hussain said US addresses its “concerns directly with governments. We meet with and listen to victims. We partner with civil society and we also urge other countries and multilateral organizations to speak up, to build coalitions, and decry violations and abuses of the freedom of religion or belief.”
“There were numerous reports during the year of violence by law enforcement authorities against members of religious minorities in multiple states, including plainclothes police in Gujarat publicly flogging four Muslim men accused of injuring Hindu worshippers during a festival in October, and the Madhya Pradesh State government bulldozing Muslim-owned homes and shops following communal violence in Khargone in April,” according to the report.
“In June, UN special rapporteurs on adequate housing, minority issues, and freedom of religion and belief wrote the government to express their ‘serious concerns’ about the ‘punitive’ demolitions in Khargone, which they stated were ‘ordered by local governments arbitrarily to punish Muslim minorities and low-income communities,’” it said
“In multiple states, police arrested Christians accused of forcing others to convert. Christian groups said police sometimes aided crowds who disrupted worship services the crowds said were forcibly converting Hindus,” the report said.
“Attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred in various states throughout the year,” it said.
“These included incidents of ‘cow vigilantism’ against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or trade in beef and incidents in which Muslim men were alleged to have married Hindu women to convert them,” according to the report.
There were also attacks on pastors, disruption of Christian and Muslim worship services, and vandalism of churches, it said. Most of the incidents were reported in four states: Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Tamil Nadu.
In New Delhi, India rejected the State Department report on international religious freedom saying it was based on “misinformation and flawed understanding.”
Read: US asks India to check ‘continued targeted attacks’ on minorities (May 16, 2023)
“We are aware of the release of the US State Department 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom. Regrettably, such reports continue to be based on misinformation and flawed understanding,” Ministry of External Affairs, spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stated Wednesday,
“The report is motivated and biased commentary by some US officials which only serves to undermine further the credibility of these reports,” he stated. “We value our partnership with the US and will continue to have frank exchanges on issues of concern to us.”