India denounces US report on attacks on minorities

India on Thursday denounced the US State Department’s report on attacks on minorities, calling it an “unfortunate vote-banking policy practiced in international relations”.

“We have noted the release of the U.S. State Department’s 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom and the ill-informed comments from senior U.S. officials. Too bad that vote-banking politics is practiced in international relations. We urge that evaluations based on reasoned contributions and biased opinions are avoided,” the Department of External Affairs said.

In its annual report to Congress on international religious freedom, the US State Department alleged that India has seen attacks on members of minority communities, including murders, assaults and intimidation, occur throughout throughout 2021. Released by Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department’s Foggy Bottom Headquarters, the report provides his own perspective on the status and violations of religious freedom around the world and has separate chapters on each country.

India has previously rejected the US religious freedom report, saying it sees no locus standi for a foreign government to comment on the status of its citizens’ constitutionally protected rights. The India section of the report avoids commenting on the status of religious minorities, but documents various aspects of it as they appear in the Indian press and Indian government reports. It also cites extensively the allegations of various nonprofits and minority institutions about the attacks on them, but for the most part is fairly silent on the results of investigations by officials, the government’s responses.

“Attacks against members of minority religious communities, including killings, assaults and intimidation, occurred throughout the year. These include incidents of cow vigilance against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or beef trade,” the India section of the report said. He takes note of RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that Hindus and Muslims in India had the same DNA and should not be differentiated by religion.

“In July, Mohan Bhagwat, the leader of the RSS, which is generally considered the ideological parent of India’s ruling party, the BJP, publicly stated that Hindus and Muslims in India have the same DNA and should not be differentiated by religion,” the report said. “There can never be any domination of Hindus or Muslims (in the country); there can only be Indian rule,” Bhagwat said, adding that members of the Muslim community should not be afraid that Islam is in danger in India. He also said that killing non-Hindus to slaughter cows was an act against Hinduism, according to the report.

The report said police arrested non-Hindus for making comments in the media or on social media considered offensive to Hindus or Hinduism.

NGOs, including faith-based organizations, continued to criticize the 2020 amendments passed to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) as constraining civil society by reducing the amount of foreign funding that NGOs, including organizations religious, could use for administrative purposes and adding onerous oversight and certification requirements, he said. The government continued to say that the law strengthens oversight and accountability for the funding of foreign NGOs in the country.

According to media reports, the FCRA licenses of 5,789 NGOs, including hundreds of faith-based organizations, expired after the government said the organizations failed to apply for renewals in time. In addition, during the year the government suspended the FCRA licenses of 179 NGOs, including some faith-based, according to the report.

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