'US minority report biased, ill-informed'
Deccan Chronicle.| Sridhar Kumaraswami
The controversy was triggered after the US State Department released a 'Report on International Religious Freedom 2021'
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. (Twitter)
New Delhi: Hours after US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken named India as one of the countries where "religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities are under threat," India fired back, saying that "racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes, and gun violence" on American soil are a source of concern for New Delhi. Urging Washington not to base its assessment on motivated inputs and to avoid biased views, New Delhi averred that the US should not play "vote-bank politics in international relations."
The controversy was triggered after the US State Department released a "Report on International Religious Freedom 2021" that was critical of India and several other nations. Late on Thursday evening (early Friday morning IST), in an embarrassment for New Delhi, Mr Blinken, releasing the report in Washington, said, "The report documents how religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities are under threat in communities around the world. For example, in India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship."
The US government report was prepared by a team headed by the US Ambassador at Large for International Freedom, Rashad Hussain, who also accused "some officials" in India of "ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship."
The US report stated, "Attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred throughout the year. These included incidents of "cow vigilantism" against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or trade in beef... According to the United Christian Forum, the number of violent attacks against Christians in the country rose to 486 during the year from 279 in 2020."
Drawing heavily from media reports to list attacks on religious minorities in various states in India, the US report said, "Ten of 28 states have laws restricting religious conversions. Four state governments have laws imposing penalties against so-called forced religious conversions for the purpose of marriage, although some state high courts have dismissed cases charged under this law... Christians and Muslims were charged during the year under laws restricting conversions and some state governments announced plans to strengthen existing legislation or develop new legislation."
The report will be submitted by the US state department to the US Congress.
Hitting back on Friday evening, India said, "We have noted the release of the US State Department 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom and ill-informed comments by senior US officials. It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is being practiced in international relations. We would urge that assessments based on motivated inputs and biased views be avoided. As a naturally pluralistic society, India values religious freedom and human rights. In our discussions with the US, we have regularly highlighted issues of concern there, including racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence."
The report also lambasted both China and Russia for what it said was a severe crackdown on religious freedom and referred to China’s treatment of its ethnic Muslim minority, the Uighurs, and also Tibetan Buddhists.
Pakistan’s record was also criticized. Mr Blinken said, "In Pakistan, at least 16 individuals accused of blasphemy were sentenced to death by Pakistani courts in 2021, though these sentences are yet to be carried out."
On Afghanistan, the report noted that "religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated since the Taliban seized control, (and that) the Taliban regime and rival militant group ISIS-K have detained, intimidated, threatened and attacked members of religious minority communities."