The US State Department has raised concerns over what it has called “continued targeted attacks” on India’s minority Muslim and Christian communities under Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government.
The department’s latest annual report on religious freedoms in some 200 countries was released by US secretary of state Anthony Blinken in Washington earlier this week, ahead of the Indian prime minister’s first official US state visit on June 22nd.
Mr Blinken said the report revealed “the rise of troubling trends” in sectarian and racist attacks across the world.
The report highlighted ongoing attacks on India’s religious minorities and “open calls for genocide” against Muslims.
Based on research by media and advocacy groups, the report underscored frequent attacks on mosques and churches and noted that perpetrators were often treated leniently by authorities.
The report detailed instances of vigilantism against non-Hindus for slaughtering cows, which Hindus hold sacred. Assaults on Muslim men who married Hindu women, allegedly to convert them to Islam, were also listed.
The account also recorded a incident last October of five Muslim men being tied to a pole and whipped by Hindu policemen with bamboo canes as a crowd cheered them on in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
Muslims comprise about 15 per cent and Christians 2.13 per cent of India’s population of more than 1.4 billion, of which about 80 per cent are Hindus.
Briefing journalists on the report, a senior US State Department official said such attacks in India promoted “dehumanising rhetoric” and “hate-fuelled violence” and that Washington was encouraging New Delhi to “condemn all such acts and hold accountable groups responsible for them”.
In late April, India’s Supreme Court had expressed similar concern over growing instances of hate speech and directed the authorities to take action in such cases without waiting for formal complaints.
“Such action is needed to preserve the secular character of the country,” the court said in response to a petition from journalists seeking an independent and credible inquiry into incidents of hate speech across India under Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Meanwhile, in a report published on May 1st, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom accused the Indian government at the federal and local levels of enforcing religiously discriminatory policies, including laws concerning inter-faith marriages and the wearing of religious attire for Muslim women.
The commission claimed that minority Sikhs, low caste Dalits and India’s tribal peoples were subjected to persecution and urged Washington to enforce targeted sanctions against Indian government agencies and officials responsible for these atrocities by freezing their assets.
India’s foreign ministry spokesman dismissed both reports as groundless, claiming them to be based on “misinformation and flawed understanding”.
He said “motivated and biased commentary” by some US officials continued to undermine the credibility of such reports and that Delhi would continue “frank conversations” on matters of concern with Washington.