An official report prepared by the United States said that mob attacks by “violent extremist Hindu groups” against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018 amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef.
The International Religious Freedom Report by the US State Department describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The 2018 report alleged that some senior officials of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party made inflammatory speeches against minority communities.
The report said 18 such mob attacks were reported as of November 2018 and eight people were killed during the year. “According to some NGOs, authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution,” it said. “There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytize.”
The report cited data presented by India’s Ministry of Home Affairs in the Lok Sabha on February 6 which showed that communal incidents had increased 9% from 2015 to 2017, with 822 incidents resulting in 111 deaths and 2,384 injuries in 2017. “Authorities often failed to prosecute perpetrators of ‘cow vigilante’ attacks, which included killings, mob violence, and intimidation,” the report said.
The State Department said the central and state governments and members of political parties also took steps that “affected Muslim practices and institutions”. “Proposals to rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance continued, most notably the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj,” it said in the report. “Activists said these proposals were designed to erase Muslim contributions to Indian history and had led to increased communal tensions.”
The report said the Indian government continued to challenge in the Supreme Court the minority status of Muslim educational institutions, which affords them independence in hiring and curriculum decisions.
The report mentioned the lynching of Rakbar Khan in Alwar, Rajasthan, the violence that broke out in Bulandshahr over rumours of cow slaughter. “Tradition and social custom continued to deny entry to women and members of Dalit communities (former untouchables) into many places of worship,” the report said.
The State Department said senior US government officials “underscored the importance of respecting religious freedom and promoting tolerance throughout the year with the ruling and opposition parties, civil society and religious freedom activists, and religious leaders belonging to various faith communities”.