Religious freedom in India continued on a downward trend in 2017, said the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s annual report released on Thursday. It said that although government statistics have indicated that communal violence has increased over the past two years, the Narendra Modi administration has not addressed the problem.
“His [Modi’s] administration also has done little to provide justice for victims of large-scale past incidents of communal violence, often caused by inflammatory speeches delivered by leaders of Modi’s party,” the report alleged. “During the year, Hindu-nationalist groups sought to “saffronise” India through violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindus and Hindu Dalits.”
The report classified India as a Tier 2 country. A Tier 2 country is one that has at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” standard that the commission uses to gauge violations of religious freedoms. Apart from India, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey are also categorised as Tier 2 countries.
The report said around one-third of state governments enforced anti-conversion and/or anti-cow slaughter laws against non-Hindus, and that violence was perpetrated against Muslims and Dalits. “Cow protection lynch mobs killed at least 10 victims in 2017,” said the report. “Forced conversions of non-Hindus to Hinduism through “homecoming” ceremonies [ghar wapsi] were reported, and rules on the registration of foreign-funded nongovernmental organisations were used discriminatorily against religious minority groups.”
The report listed 10 states – Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan – where religious freedom was largely affected.
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US government commission that reviews religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations. India, however, has not allowed a representative of USCIRF to visit the country for the purpose of these reports for years now, according to The Hindu.