India on Thursday rejected a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that said that religious minorities and Dalits in the country continue to face vigilantism and persecution. Union External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the Centre had “serious doubts” on the organisation’s credibility, PTI reported.
“Government does not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” Swarup said. “We take no cognisance of their report,” he said, adding that India had rejected similar reports in the past as well.
The report has alleged that hate crimes, social boycotts and forced conversions in the country had increased dramatically since 2014, the year the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance formed the government. USCIRF Chairperson TJ Reese said that India’s constitution “provides legal equality for its citizens irrespective of their religion and prohibits religion-based discrimination”. “However, the reality is far different. In fact, India’s pluralistic tradition faces serious challenges in a number of its states,” Reese said.
Noting that religious tolerance in parts of the country had deteriorated, the chairperson called on the Indian government to “reverse this negative trajectory” by bringing the country’s laws in line with its “constitutional commitments and international human rights standards”. In May 2016, New Delhi rejected a similar report by the USCIRF, which said that minority communities “experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups”.