Kuala Lumpur Post

World

US religious freedom report notes violence against India’s minorities

WASHINGTON — The US state department’s 2023 religious freedom report on India noted violent attacks on minority groups, especially Muslims and Christians, including killings, assaults and vandalism of houses of worship.

The state department report on international religious freedom released on Wednesday said that during the year, senior US officials continued to “raise concerns about religious freedom issues” with their Indian counterparts.

Human rights experts say India has seen a rise in attacks on minorities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who recently won a third term, and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Criticism of India by the US is usually restrained due to close economic ties and New Delhi’s importance for Washington to counter China, political analysts say.

The US report listed dozens of incidents. Among them was a fatal shooting of a security official and three Muslims on a train near Mumbai by a suspect who was a railway security official. A probe by Indian authorities into that case is ongoing and the suspect was in jail, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

The US report also cited examples of attacks against Muslims based on allegations that Muslim men were participating in the slaughter of cows or beef trading.

The Indian embassy in Washington had no immediate comment on the report. The Indian government denies discriminating against minorities, and says its welfare policies – such as food subsidy schemes and electrification drives – aim to benefit all Indians.

Rights advocates contest that and point to anti-Muslim hate speeches, the revoking of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status, a citizenship law that the UN calls “fundamentally discriminatory” and the demolition of Muslim properties in the name of removing illegal construction.

The state department report also cited violence in the northeastern state of Manipur that started in May last year between minority, mostly Christian, Kuki and majority, mostly Hindu, Meitei ethnic groups.

Hindu and Christian places of worship were destroyed in Manipur. Citing a local tribal leaders’ forum, the report said over 250 churches were burnt down, more than 200 people were killed and over 60,000 were displaced.

Hindus make up about 80% of India’s 1.4 billion population while Muslims include 14% and Christians over 2%.

The report also pointed to anti-conversion legislation in some Indian states that rights advocates say challenges the right to freedom of belief. — Reuters