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US expresses concern about violence and discrimination against religious minorities in India

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

By Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jun 10 (PTI) Voicing concern over the alleged attacks and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities in India, an official American report said on Wednesday that the US officials have emphasised the need to ensure full protection to minorities as guaranteed under the Constitution.

Mandated by the US Congress, the “2019 International Religious Freedom Report” that documents major instances of the violation of religious freedom across the world was released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on Wednesday.

India previously rejected the US religious freedom report, saying it sees no locus standi for a foreign government to pronounce on the state of its citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.

The India section of the report says that the US government officials underscored the importance of respecting religious freedom and promoting tolerance and mutual respect throughout the year with the ruling and opposition parties, civil society and religious freedom activists, and religious leaders belonging to various faith communities.

In their engagement with government officials, media, interfaith harmony organizations and NGOs, US officials emphasised the need to address the legitimate concerns of the country’s religious minorities, condemn communal rhetoric, and ensure full protection of minorities as guaranteed under the Constitution, it said.

In October, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, in meetings with senior government officials, raised concerns over violence and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, including communal violence, the report said.

The report refers to the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir last August and the parliament passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December as major highlights for India last year.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was its internal matter.

On the CAA, which accelerates citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who entered the country on or before December 31, 2014, the Indian government has stressed that the goal is to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the CAA was an act to provide citizenship and not to take it away from legal Indian citizens, the report said, adding that in November he stated that the Constitution should be revered as a “holy book and a guiding light.”

Some officials linked the CAA with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a process used to identify illegal immigrants in the state of Assam.

On December 22, Modi disavowed any discussion of implementing the NRC nationwide, including earlier comments from Home Minister Amit Shah that a nationwide NRC should be in place so “we will detect and deport every infiltrator from our motherland,” the report said.

Some officials of the Hindu-majority parties, including from the ruling BJP, made inflammatory public remarks or social media posts against minority communities, the report alleged.

“Authorities often failed to prosecute perpetrators of such “cow vigilantism,” which included killings, mob violence, and intimidation. According to some NGOs, authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution and filed charges against victims,” it said.

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