India on Thursday rejected the comments made by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom about the violent clashes in Delhi, calling them factually inaccurate and misleading. The number of casualties as a result of large-scale mob violence in the national Capital climbed to 34 on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, the commission expressed grave concern over the violence that has erupted in North East Delhi since Sunday, much of which is directed at Muslims. The commission urged the Indian government to provide protection to people regardless of their religion. “We urge the Indian government to make serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” the commission’s chairperson, Tony Perkins, said in a statement.
In response, the Ministry of External Affairs, said the comments made by the commission, as well as by sections of the media and “a few individuals” appeared to be “aimed at politicising the issue”. Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that law enforcement agencies and senior government representatives were trying to normalise the situation. “We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this time,” he said.
USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava on Wednesday said the “brutal and unchecked violence” across Delhi cannot continue. “The Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of its citizens,” she said, adding that reports of police inaction in violent attacks against Muslims were mounting. The government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens, she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, several lawmakers in the United States also raised concerns about the violence. United States presidential contender for the Democratic Party Bernie Sanders said President Donald Trump’s reaction to the violence was a “failure of leadership on human rights”. “Over 200 million Muslims call India home,” Sanders said in a tweet. “Widespread anti-Muslim mob violence has killed at least 27 and injured many more. Trump responds by saying, ‘That’s up to India.’ This is a failure of leadership on human rights.”
Democratic Party contender Senator Elizabeth Warren, too, condemned the violence and said: “...we must be able to speak truthfully about our values, including religious freedom and freedom of expression – and violence against peaceful protestors is never acceptable.”
United States Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal expressed shock over the violence, and described it as a “deadly surge of religious intolerance”. Tagging a report on Trump evading a question on the violence in Delhi, US lawmaker Alan Lowenthal said it was a “tragic failure of moral leadership”.
In December, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom had called the Citizenship Amendment Act “a dangerous turn in the wrong direction”, pointing out that the legislation uses religion as a legal criterion to grant citizenship. “It runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” USCIRF added.