Attacks against India’s minority communities, particularly Muslims and Christians, have increased in the past one year, US lawmakers were told today.
During this period, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) received reports that communal violence and attacks against religious minorities increased in India despite its status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, USCIRF Commissioner Elliott Abrams told lawmakers.
“NGOs and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian and Sikh communities, attribute the increase to India’s upcoming 2014 general election and politicians’ use of religiously divisive language, and they fear that incidents will become even more frequent as the general election nears and immediately thereafter,” Abrams said during a Congressional hearing.
He said Christian NGOs and leaders had reported that Christians experience “more harassment and violence in states that have anti-conversion laws”. He added, “In addition, India’s record in investigating and prosecuting religiously motivated crimes remained mixed.”
Testifying before the Congressional committee, Tehmina Arora from Alliance Defending Freedom-India alleged that attacks have been reported across the country over the past five years, though primarily concentrated in states where the main opposition BJP has been in power and where groups associated with it are active.
“Violence is fuelled primarily by non-state actors who are guided by the Hindutva ideology, which sees India as a Hindu nation, where religious minorities are second-class citizens,” said Arora, who flew in from New Delhi for the hearing.
“India, in spite of its long tradition for religious tolerance, finds itself in the throes of religious fundamentalism and violence against religious minorities for the past few decades,” she said.
Reports by faith-based rights agencies showed that Christians had suffered about 150 violent attacks on an average in the past few years, Arora said.
These attacks include physical and sexual assaults, murder and desecration of places of worship and graveyards, she said.