Damning US report on Hindu fanaticism in India touches raw nerve in Delhi

  0 comments   |     by Rajinder Krishna

The latest report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has damning references to the rise of Hindu fanaticism in India under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi, with targeted attacks on Muslims. Expectedly, these observations have touched a raw nerve in the Indian Establishment which is now steeped in Hindu supremacism and the attendant disdain for any criticism, even if it is backed by solid evidence.

The USCIRF has asked the US State Department to designate 14 nations, including India, as "Countries of Particular Concern".

Threatening action against the USCIRF, the spokesman of the Indian External Affairs Ministry, Anurag Srivastava, pompously said: "We reject the observations on India in the USCIRF annual report. Its biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels. It has not been able to carry its own commissioners in its endeavor. We regard it as an organization of particular concern and will treat it accordingly."

Srivastava was referring to two USCIRF commissioners – Gary L. Bauer and Tenzin Dorjee – who had said in their individual observations, that India could not be bracketed with the worst cases because it is a vibrant democracy with countervailing forces which can help contain religious fanaticism. This contention is New Delhi’s fig leaf to cover up shameful misdeeds.

The USCIRF has asked the US State Department to designate 14 nations, including India, as "Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)". Pakistan continues to be in that list. Afghanistan is in the “Special Watch List” (SWL). But Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal are not in any list, though some violations in Sri Lanka and Nepal have been briefly mentioned.  

Report On India

The report says that in 2019, religious freedom in India experienced a “drastic turn downward” with religious minorities under increasing assault.

“Following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) re-election in May, the national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims. The national government allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.”

“Following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) re-election in May, the national government used its strengthened parliamentary majority to institute national level policies violating religious freedom across India, especially for Muslims. It allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.”

“Significantly, the BJP-led government enacted the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)—a fast track to citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan already residing in India—and approved a National Population Register (NPR) as a first step toward a nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC). The border state of Assam, under mandate of the Supreme Court, implemented a statewide NRC to identify illegal migrants within Assam. When the statewide NRC was released in August, 1.9 million residents—both Muslims and Hindus—were excluded.”

“Those excluded live in fear of the consequences: three United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs warned that exclusion from the NRC could result in “statelessness, deportation, or prolonged detention.” Indeed, Home Minister Amit Shah referred to migrants as “termites” to be eradicated. Troubled that Hindus were excluded from Assam’s NRC, he and other BJP officials advocated for the CAA as a corrective measure to protect Hindus. The CAA provides listed non-Muslim religious communities a path to restore their citizenship and avoid detention or deportation.”

“In its wake, BJP leaders have continued to advocate for a nation-wide NRC; the citizenship of millions would be placed under question, but, with the CAA in place, Muslims alone would bear the indignities and consequences of potential statelessness. The CAA’s passage in December sparked nationwide protests that police and government-aligned groups met with violence; in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath pledged “revenge” against anti-CAA protestors and stated they should be fed “bullets not biryani.” In December, close to 25 people died in attacks against protestors and universities in UP alone. According to reports, police action specifically targeted Muslims.”

Mob lynching of persons suspected of cow slaughter or consuming beef continued, with most attacks occurring within BJP-ruled states.

“Throughout 2019, government action—including the CAA, continued enforcement of cow slaughter and anti-conversion laws, and the November Supreme Court ruling on the Babri Masjid site—created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of harassment and violence against religious minorities. In August, the government also revoked the autonomy of Muslim-majority state Jammu and Kashmir and imposed restrictions that negatively impacted religious freedom.”

Lynching

“Mob lynching of persons suspected of cow slaughter or consuming beef continued, with most attacks occurring within BJP-ruled states. Lynch mobs often took on overtly Hindu nationalist tones. In June, in Jharkand, a mob attacked a Muslim, Tabrez Ansari, forcing him to chant “Jai Shri Ram (Hail Lord Ram)” as they beat him to death. Police often arrest those attacked for cow slaughter or conversion activities rather than the perpetrators. “

“Violence against Christians also increased, with at least 328 violent incidents, often under accusations of forced conversions. These attacks frequently targeted prayer services and led to the widespread shuttering or destruction of churches.”

“In 2018, the Supreme Court urged the central and state governments to combat lynching with stricter laws. When, by July 2019, the central government and 10 states had failed to take appropriate action, the Supreme Court again directed them to do so. Rather than comply, Home Minister Shah called existing laws sufficient and denied lynching had increased, while the Home Ministry instructed the National Crime Records Bureau to omit lynching from the 2019 crime data report.”

The report has asked the US government to impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/ or barring their entry into the United States.

“During 2019, discriminatory policies, inflammatory rhetoric, and tolerance for violence against minorities at the national, state, and local level increased the climate of fear among non-Hindu communities. After the reporting period, India continued on this negative trajectory. In February 2020, three days of violence erupted in Delhi with mobs attacking Muslim neighborhoods. There were reports of Delhi police, operating under the Home Ministry’s authority, failing to halt attacks and even directly participating in the violence. At least 50 people were killed.”

Targeted Sanctions Sought

The report has asked the US government to impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/ or barring their entry into the United States under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations. It also urged the US Congress to continue to hold hearings highlighting religious freedom conditions in India and US policy toward India.

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