US Religious Freedoms Report: India practices ‘persistent religious violence’
The US State Department’s annual report on Religious Freedoms was published this week, describing India as a country, which practices ‘persistent religious violence’ – particularly against Muslims and Christians. The report is defined as the result of analysis, surveys and consultations covering over 200 states and regions globally. It boasts that it provides a 'fact-based, comprehensive view of the state of religious freedom’.
Punitive Demolitions and arbitrary punishments against Muslims
The report referred to serious concerns” about the “punitive” demolitions in the region of Khargone, India, which it stated had been “ordered by local governments arbitrarily to punish Muslim minorities and low-income communities.’ It also referred to the abusive use of anti-conversion laws and the government ban on religious garb in educational institutions, including wearing hijabs in an all-girls’ school – which in one case in Karnataka, had resulted in a letter being sent to the High Court challenging the ruling with signatories from over 700 senior lawyers and human rights advocates.
Incitement to Genocide
Reference was made in particular to comments by BJP spokespersons, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, whose televised remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it was said, were widely seen as offensive by Muslims and led to incidents where Muslims were indiscriminately publicly decapitated and videos of the incident posted on social media. Whilst the report noted that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had disowned the comments, saying that ‘the comments did not reflect the views of the Indian government’, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and government officials from 11 countries publicly condemned the remarks.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken: 'We are representatives of the rest of the world gathered here in the United States'
The launch of this latest report on 15th May 2023, was led by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who spoke of the:
‘[Indian] Governments use anti-conversion, blasphemy, apostasy laws, which ban the act of leaving a faith, to justify harassment against those who don’t follow their particular interpretation of a theology, often weaponising those laws against humanists, atheists, and LGBTQI+ individuals…People come to the United States from all around the world and demand that their elected representatives and government official promote our values in their homelands….In many ways we are representatives of the rest of the world gathered here in the United States.'
The ‘Senior State Department Official’ was then given the task to comment and take questions on the content of the report, who when asked about India, replied:
‘What we outline in today’s report is a targeted – continued targeted attacks against religious communities, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu Dalits, and indigenous communities; dehumanizing rhetoric, including open calls for genocide against Muslims; lynching and other hate-fuelled violence, attacks on houses of worship and home demolitions, and in some cases impunity and even clemency for those who’ve engaged in attacks on religious minorities...The U.S. Holocaust Museum continues to draw considerable attention to the human rights situation in India and lists it as one of its top countries of concern and with – with regards to potential for mass killings there.
Whilst the report contained commitments and assurances that the US government would ‘continue to encourage the [Indian] government to condemn violence and hold accountable and protect all groups who engage in rhetoric that’s dehumanising towards religious minorities and all groups who engage in violence against religious communities and other communities in India’, It stopped short of recognising allegations of genocide.
Representations had been made to congress last Autumn by human rights organisations including Genocide Watch and Amnesty International, which argued that there was a serious threat of genocide taking place against Muslims in India.
Human Rights Groups allege India abuses amount to early stages of genocide
Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch (who had correctly predicted the Rwanda genocide of 1994), warned a US congressional briefing in January 2022, that there were early “signs and processes” of genocide in the Indian state of Assam and Indian-administered Kashmir.
Yet despite the advice of the U.S. Commission for International religious Freedom’ (USCIRF) urging in each of the last three years, the US government to place India on its blacklist, their requests have been rejected and suggestions that the US government/President will have a ‘frank conversation’ with the Indian Prime Minister Navendra Modi, when he visits the US next month', have been given instead. It is clear that whilst reports continue to highlight the catalogue of human rights abuses in India, the US State Department remains opposed to any kind of official designation of India as a ‘country of particular concern’.