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Hindu Groups Continue Targeting Minorities, Especially Muslims, In India: US Report

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Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018, amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef, said the US State Department in its annual report International Religious Freedom Report 2019.

There were reports of religiously-motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytise, the annual report said.

It said some senior officials of the ruling BJP had also made inflammatory speeches against the minority communities.

The report says though India’s Constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom, “this history of religious freedom has come under attack in recent years with the growth of exclusionary extremist narratives”.

The report praised India’s “independent judiciary” for often providing essential protections to religious minority communities through its jurisprudence.

The “exclusionary extremist narratives”, the report says, includes “the government’s allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities”, involving intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindu and lower-caste Hindu minorities.

According to some NGOs, the authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution, it said.

The report said that as of November, there were 18 such attacks, and eight people killed during the year.

The report mentioned that in June last year, two Uttar Pradesh police officers were charged with culpable homicide after a Muslim cattle trader died of injuries sustained while being questioned in police custody, the report said.

Releasing the report, State Secretary Mike Pompeo said the report was like a report card which tracks countries to see how well they have respected this fundamental human right.

According to the report, the Central and state governments and members of political parties took steps that affected Muslim practices and institutions.

The government continued its challenge in the Supreme Court to the minority status of Muslim educational institutions, which affords them independence in hiring and curriculum decisions, it said.

“Proposals to rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance continued, most notably the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj. Activists said these proposals were designed to erase Muslim contributions to Indian history and had led to increased communal tensions,” the State Department said.

The document suggests that the US government should press the Indian government to allow a USCIRF delegation to visit the country and meet with stakeholders to evaluate conditions for freedom of religion.

The report says since 2001, USCIRF has attempted to visit India in order to assess religious freedom conditions on the ground. “However, on three different occasions—in 2001, 2009, and 2016—the government of India refused to grant visas for a USCIRF delegation despite requests being supported by the State Department,” it says.

It also suggests measures such as pressing state governments to prosecute religious leaders, government officials and media personalities who incite violence against religious minority groups through public speeches or articles.

The US should encourage the Indian government to pass the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to establish national and state human rights commissions and human rights courts, the report says.

It also asked the US government to ensure that the Indian Central government does not use the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to “target international missionary and human rights groups”.

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