India objects to US comments on religious freedom
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had highlighted ‘rising attacks on people and places of worship’
The Indian government has denied “ignoring or even supporting” rising attacks on minorities and their places of worship as alleged in the US State Department’s report on international religious freedom.
Speaking after releasing the report on June 2, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “In India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we have seen rising attacks on people and places of worship.”
He did not specify but the 2,000-page report indicated the reference was to attacks on Christian and Muslims and their places of worship.
Blinken’s comment was further reinforced by US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain. “And as the secretary stated, in India some officials are ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship,” he said.
Blinken had in April said that the US was monitoring the “rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials” in India.
Arindam Bagchi, the official spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said on June 3 that such assessments by senior US officials based on motivated inputs and biased views need to be avoided. “It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is being practiced in international relations,” he said.
USCIRF has been a strident critic of India’s record of ill-treating its religious minorities and has even attempted to send officials to India on fact-finding missions that were blocked by New Delhi
As a naturally pluralistic society, India values religious freedom and human rights. In discussions with the US, India has regularly highlighted issues of concern there, including racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence, Bagchi retorted.
The report did not name India as a “country of particular concern,” disregarding a recommendation from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a US watchdog on global religious rights.
But it mentioned the “attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults and intimidation, occurred throughout the year. Most of the incidents were reported in states ruled by the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and included attacks on pastors, disruption of worship services and vandalism.”
USCIRF has been a strident critic of India’s record of ill-treating its religious minorities and has even attempted to send officials to India on fact-finding missions that were blocked by New Delhi.
Blinken’s criticism has clearly irked India, which had in the past gone on the offensive, saying it also harbors concerns about rights and freedoms in the United States.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue of racial equality with erstwhile US President Donald Trump at the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020.
Meanwhile, the New Delhi-based United Christian Forum in its annual report termed the year 2021 as the “most violent year” for Christians with 486 incidents of violence reported from 20 states and two union territories.