India on Tuesday refused to take cognizance of a report released by a United States body saying that religious freedom in India took a hit in 2015. The report by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom "fails to show a proper understanding of India, its Constitution and its society", a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs said.
The statement added, "India is a vibrant pluralistic society founded on strong democratic principles. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion."
According to the USCIRF’s 2016 annual report, religious tolerance deteriorated, while violations against religious freedom increased, the Economic Times reported. On the whole, religious tolerance was on a negative trajectory, the report concluded.
The organisation suggested that the government take stricter action against representatives who make statements to undermine tolerance. There were several incidents of this sort by leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last year. The report suggested BJP leaders inflamed tensions and added, “Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups.”
USCIRF, which advises the US government on matters of religion, also suggested that the country make clear its concern about the lack of tolerance in its bi-lateral dialogues with India. The organisation might recommend India to the State Department to be marked as a “country of particular concern” when it comes to the issue.
In March, the USCIRF had claimed that India had denied its members a visa for a visit planned with the support of the US embassy in India and the US State department. Soon after, the US government said it was disappointed by the developments.