The radical approach of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has raised eyebrows of human rights bodies across the world. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which dreams of making India a Hindutva state, has promised to build an ‘Akhand Hindu Rashtra’ by bringing Hindus from around the world to the country and giving them asylum here.
Consequently, religious hatred has increased in India as Hindu-nationalists want to clear India of non-Hindus and Dalits through violence, intimidation and harassment.
According to the annual report of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released in June 2019, religious freedom conditions continued a downward trend in India.
The report highlighted that with the growth of extremist narrative under Modi-led government, religious freedom in India had come under attack.
“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.
“Further, 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 2018, the Supreme Court of India highlighted the deteriorating conditions for religious freedom in some states, concluding 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,” said the report.
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Earlier, the US State Department had expressed disappointment over the Indian government’s not allowing a delegation of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom entry to India. Three delegates were scheduled to visit India but they were not granted visas.
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity that monitors, analyzes, and reports on threats to religious freedom.
Talking to a US TV CBN News, senior analyst and one of the delegates who were refused visa by the Indian government Jesuit Father Thomas Reese said the purpose of their visit was to get the actual facts and circumstances of the situation of the religious minorities in the country by visiting that by talking to religious leaders and people on the ground and also to government leaders to get their side of the story.
Reese said their responsibility was to advise the president and the state department on the situation around the world in terms of religious freedom.
He said India was one of the places that they wanted to get the firsthand view of and understand the situation, so they could be very fair and accurate in their report.
To a query, Thomas Reese said the Indian government did not give any reason for refusing them visa. He said it was actually the third time that their request for visas were rejected, which was kind of sad.
“I mean, India is a dynamic democracy. It claims to be a non-sectarian state. It has pledged itself to international agreements on religious freedom. So, what is it hiding? Why is it not allowing us to come and look at the situation,” he said.
To another query, he said, “One of the biggest concerns they had was that there was a lot of interreligious conflict and violence was going on. Thousands of people had been killed… conflicts between Muslims and Hindus. We have seen situations where churches had been burnt and attacked by mobs. Sometimes police were there but they were just standing by there and doing nothing. This is not the way a government should act. Not (at least) the government that is committed by the constitution and international agreement for protecting religious freedom.
“The most disconcerting thing is that recently there has been a lot of Hindu nationalist groups that had been pushing an all-Hindu India agenda. Basically, telling Christians to go to Europe and Muslims to go to Pakistan… India is only for Hindus. Such rhetorics are encouraging radicals to attack praying areas of minorities.”
Cow vigilantism and mob lynchings
According to a late US government report on international religious freedom, mob attacks had occurred against Muslims in India throughout 2018.
“There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs,” the report said.
While, the Indian government has rejected the findings saying that it was proud of its secular credentials and status as the largest democracy.
A large number of mob lynching incidents have taken place because of rising cow vigilantism in India. Police also support such incidents and the victim is blamed for a crime. Cow vigilantes are the people who beat or kill people over suspicion of killing or eating cow.
More than 44 people have been butchered and over 280 have been maimed since 2015 in cow protection violence. From 2010 to 2018, about 97 percent of the cow-related crimes have occurred after 2014, following Narendra Modi’s coming into power. Modi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is a hardliner Hindu nationalist who is also known as ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ for orchestrating Gujarat Massacre.
According to a survey, there has been 500 percent rise in communal divisive language in speeches of political leaders since 2014.
Cow slaughtering is prohibited in 20 out of 29 Indian states.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, in every third of the cow-related cases police have responded to by filing complaint against the victims.