US State Department’s Damning Report on Persecution of Religious Minorities in India a step in the right direction, say Indian Americans
Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2023) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has welcomed the release of the US State Department’s 2022 International Religious Freedom (IRF) report, which extensively highlights the ongoing persecution of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians in India.
Released by Secretary Anthony Blinken and the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain on May 15, the report takes a deep dive into several overarching issues, including violent anti-Muslim riots, violence against Christians, criminalized religious conversion, the Karnataka state hijab ban, the punitive demolition of Muslim-owned homes and businesses.
It also looks at the Hinduization of educational materials in public schools, the arbitrary arrests of Muslims gathering for prayer, denial of bail for Muslim activists arrested under India’s draconian anti-terror law, arbitrary demolitions of mosques and churches, cow vigilantism and mob lynchings, and hate speeches made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders calling for violence against Muslims.
The report also cites specific cases of anti-Muslim violence and hate speech, including the public flogging of Muslim men in Gujarat state by off-duty police officers; Hindu militant mob attacks during on a Muslim-majority area of Madhya Pradesh state’s Khargone city during the festival Ram Navami; the release of 11 Hindu militant men who were sentenced to life in prison for gang-raping a pregnant Muslim woman, Bilkis Bano, and murdering her family members; and the offensive televised comments made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma about Prophet Muhammad.
The State Department also quoted IAMC’s monthly reports in multiple sections about anti-Christian violence.
In a special briefing presenting the report, an unnamed senior State Department official stated that he was “saddened” to see the atrocities outlined in the India section of the report, pointing out that the Holocaust Memorial Museum, “lists [India] as one of its top countries of concern… with regards to potential for mass killings there.”
“What we outline in today’s report is… 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-fueled 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 – we’re also continuing to see, at the state level, some restrictions on religious attire,” the official said.
The 2022 IRF report echoes findings presented in the annual report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which calls on the State Department to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for ongoing and severe violations of religious freedoms for minorities.
“We are glad to see that the US State Department has not held back in detailing the ever increasing atrocities against minorities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule,” said Rasheed Ahmed, IAMC Executive Director. “We now call upon Secretary Blinken and the State Department to listen to the facts presented by both the IRF and USCIRF reports and designate India as a Country of Particular Concern.”
“Based on the State Department’s own reporting, it is easy to see that India more than qualifies as a CPC,” said Mohammad Jawad, President of IAMC. “We urge Secretary Blinken to hold India accountable by acting on USCIRF’s recommendations.”
IAMC further urges the Indian government to take immediate steps to address these concerns and protect the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of their religion.
For those interested in speaking with IAMC experts on deteriorating human rights and religious freedoms in India, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org