CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2020 / 15:50 pm
India has barred U.S. representatives from investigating the county’s reported violations of religious freedom, continuing what critics call a trend of Hindu nationalism that threatens religious minorities in India.
The investigation, called for by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), followed reports of the abuse of Chistians, Muslims, and other religious minorities in India. The reports prompted USCIRF to delegate India a “country of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 annual report. India joined a list of 13 other CPCs in the report, including North Korea and China.
“We see no locus standi for a 'foreign entity/government' to pronounce on the state of our citizens' constitutionally protected rights,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, according to a report by IndiaToday. He said India is a “pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion.”
Although India’s constitution protects the freedom of religion, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has manipulated the constitutional stipulation that religious freedom is “subject to public order,” using the clause to promote Hindu nationalism, according to the USCIRF report.
One such instance of Hindu nationalism is a new policy that would fast-track the citizenship of non-Muslim migrants by treating them as refugees fleeing religious persecution. The same status would not be conferred on 100 million other migrants, potentially making them illegal residents of India.
This policy incited violent riots in northeastern Delhi in February, killing 27 and injuring over 200, according to a CNA report. The riots saw Hindu mobs attacking unarmed people and especially targeting Muslims.
Reports indicate that Indian Hindus, who make up nearly 80% of India’s population, have systematically targeted Muslims in lynch mobs for slaughtering or eating beef– a practice that Hindus consider to be a religious offense. Since the BJP came to power in 2014, there have been over 100 lynch mob attacks in India, which often originate on social media. The law enforcement is known to arrest the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of these attacks.
Religious discrimination and violence has also been directed toward Christians in recent years.