Referring to cow vigilante mobs, ghar wapsi conversions, and discriminatory language by the BJP, the latest US State Department annual report on religious freedom has outlined recent incidents of religious tensions in India, inviting sharp criticism from the BJP, which said that it reflected a “clear bias against the Modi government”.
“Some senior officials of the Hindu-majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made inflammatory speeches against minority communities. Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that victims had traded or killed cows for beef,” the report stated. “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. Proposals to rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance continued, most notably the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj.”
The BJP reacted strongly, saying that the report “shows clear bias against the Modi government and BJP”. Drawing on the slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas,” the party said that its “mega-schemes” have cut across castes and religion.
“The basic presumption in this report that there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false. On the contrary, in most of such cases, these instances are carried out as a result of local disputes and by criminal mindsets. Whenever needed, PM Modi and other BJP leaders have strongly deplored violence against minorities and weaker sections of the society,” BJP national media head Anil Baluni said in a statement. “India has deep rooted democratic institutions, including fiercely independent and pro-active judiciary, which is quite capable of handling such disputes and punish the guilty. Unfortunately, this fact is completely ignored in this report.”
The remarks come ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s scheduled visit to India next week towards boosting bilateral trade tensions.
The report has outlined several cases of violence and intimidation against non-Hindus and Hindu Dalits by law enforcement and private individuals. It has also detailed how laws on foreign NGOs were used against religious minorities.