US Body Slams India Over ‘Gau Raksha’ Impelreport
NEW DELHI: A US government panel tracking international religious freedom has alleged that nearly one-third of India’s states were enforcing anti-conversion and/or anti-cow slaughter laws against “non-Hindus” and sought the repeal or amendment of these laws to make them “conform with international human rights standards”.
Stating that “cow protection’ mobs in 2017 had engaged in violence against Muslims or Dalits whose families had been engaged in dairy, leather or beef trade for generations and “murdered at least 10 victims”, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that the US government advocate for Indian government to press the states having anti-conversion and anti-cow slaughter laws, to repeal or amend them. USCIRF, which makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and Congress, in its 2018 report released on Thursday placed India once again among ‘Tier 2’ countries of particular concern, on par with Turkey and Afghanistan. This designation, it noted, is based on the assessment that India in 2017 engaged in or tolerated religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standards.
Importantly, Pakistan — which was earlier put on the special watchlist by the State Department — has been categorized as a Tier 1 country of particular concern, along with Syria, Iran, North Korea and Myanmar, etc. USCIRF reports have in the past too faulted India on religious freedom, though Indian government has rejected them saying that they showed a “lack of proper understanding of India, its constitution, and its society”.
The recommendations made by USCIRF in its latest report include denial of visas to Indian officials and agencies identified as responsible for violations of the right to freedom of religion; and working with Modi government for pressing the states to prosecute religious leaders, government officials and media personalities who incite violence against minorities through public speeches or articles.
Blaming RSS and VHP for running a “multi-faceted campaign against non-Hindus and lower-caste Hindus” — an allegation not quite substantiated in the report — USCIRF alleged that members of ruling BJP have an affiliation with “Hindu extremist groups” and continue to use discriminatory language against religious minorities despite prime minister Narendra Modi having decried mob violence. The report referred to violent protests over the film Padmavati, blaming them on “Hindu extremist groups”. Interestingly, the report speaks of groups being agitated over allegations that Padmavati depicted “a Hindu queen having a romantic daydream about a Muslim king” when what really angered protestors was it’s showing a Muslim king fantasizing about their “revered” queen.
Alleging that anti-conversion laws were applied discriminatorily against Muslims and Christians engaged in proselytization, the USCIRF report noted that religious minority leaders often faced intimidation and arrest under these laws. Interestingly, it referred to the murder of pastor Sultan Masih in Ludhiana, even though an investigation by NIA has unveiled the role of Sikh extremists and Pakistan’s ISI. Dubbing the crackdown on NGOs since 2014 as an instrument to often target political opponents of Modi government, the USCIRF quoted “observers” to allege that Christian charity Compassion International was shut down due to fear of its converting Dalits and thus “threatening” Hindu population “as there are 200 million Dalits in India”. Quoting NCRB data on communal violence that showed an increase in last two years, the panel alleged that Modi administration had done little to provide justice for victims.