The Ministry of External Affairs on Sunday rejected an official report released by the United States that said 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.
“India is proud of its secular credentials, it’s status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. “The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including its minority communities.”
“It is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and rule of law further promote and protect the fundamental rights,” he added. “We see no locus standi for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.”
The statement came a day after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party dismissed the report and said it showed a clear bias against the Narendra Modi government. “The basic presumption in this report that there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false,” BJP media head and Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni had said. “On the contrary, in most of such cases, these instances are carried out as a result of local disputes and by [people with] criminal mindsets.”
The US report
The 2018 International Religious Freedom Report by the US State Department also alleged that some senior officials of the ruling BJP made inflammatory speeches against minority communities. It said 18 such mob attacks were reported as of November 2018 and eight people were killed during the year.
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 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 added that 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. It also mentioned the lynching of Rakbar Khan in Alwar, Rajasthan, the violence that broke out in Bulandshahr over rumours of cow slaughter.