Modi govt rejects US report on attacks on minorities

Rajat Kain

communal_riotsUnion NDA government has rejected the report commissioned by the US government which claims that the religious minority communities in India have been subject to an offensive and attacks ever since BJP has come to the power. The report has been compiled by US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The report has been critical of Narendra Modi government for incidents like the series of church attacks and a highly controversial “ghar wapsi” (religious re-conversion) campaigns by the right-wing groups. The report even talked about various derogatory statements made against the minority community by the law makers belonging to the ruling party.

Rejecting the report, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “Our attention has been drawn to a report of the USCIRF which has passed judgement on religious freedom in India. We take no cognisance of the report”.

“The report appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its Constitution and its society,” the MEA spokesperson added.

In its 2015 Annual report tabled before the US Congress, the report said, “Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).”

Detailing one of the alleged event of ‘Ghar wapsi’ the report goes on further to say “In advance of the programme, the Hindu groups sought to raise money for their campaign, noting that it cost nearly 200,000 rupees per Christian and 500,000 rupees per Muslim. After both domestic and international criticism, the day was ‘postponed’”.

The report also talks about the atrocities on Dalit community which too has been forced to reconvert. In September 2014, the Dalit Seventh-day Adventists filed a report in Uttar Pradesh that they were forcibly converted to Hinduism and that their church was converted to a Hindu temple. It is not known if a police investigation was conducted in the matter.

However, the report also took an important note of the Prime Minister assuring that his government will defend every community’s rights.

In February this year at an event to honour Indian catholic saints, PM Modi had stated “will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence”.

The report also draws a mention of the cases of communal violence pending in Indian courts. It included cases relating to Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, 2002 Gujarat communal violence and even 1984 Delhi riots after the assassination of then PM Indira Gandhi.

The report concluded seeking the Obama Administration “to press the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who make derogatory remarks about communities and to boost religious freedom standards in India.”

But the BJP-led NDA government at the centre has completely rejected the report. Reacting to the report, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said “People who are not fully aware of India, giving certificates on religious freedom is wrong. India is a secular country. Isolated incidents happen everywhere”.