India on Thursday rejected the US State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2019, which has a detailed account of the Centre’s revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, The Indian Express reported.
The Ministry of External Affairs said Washington has no locus standi to comment on the matters. “The report is published annually by the US State Department as part of the legal requirement to the US Congress,” foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. “It is an internal document of the US government. India’s vibrant democratic traditions and practices are evident to the world. The people and the government of India are proud of our country’s democratic traditions. We have a robust public discourse.”
Srivastava added: “And we have constitutionally mandated institutions that guarantee protection of religious freedom and rule of law. Therefore, our principal position remains that we see no local standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.”
In a letter on June 1, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that New Delhi had denied visas to teams from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a non-governmental advisory body to the US Congress, after its denouncement of the state of religious freedom in India. The commission had also sought sanctions against Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
US religious freedom report
The report, released by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday, is a survey of the state of religious freedom across the world. Pompeo listed countries for positive developments in religious freedom and negative examples. However, India was not mentioned in either.
It also took note of mob lynchings and how authorities in India have often failed to prosecute perpetrators of cow vigilantism. “Issues of religiously inspired mob violence, lynching, and communal violence were sometimes denied or ignored by lawmakers, according to a number of non governmental organizations and media outlets,” the 27-page report said. “Some officials of Hindu-majority parties, including from the Bharatiya Janata Party, made inflammatory public remarks or social media posts against minority communities. Mob attacks by violent Hindu groups against minority communities, including Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that victims had traded or killed cows for beef.”
It also highlighted the Supreme Court’s decision on the Babri Masjid case and the challenges to 2018 reversal of ban on women entering the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
In April, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom had recommended Pompeo to downgrade India’s religious freedom to the lowest grade, as one of 14 “countries of particular concern”. In return, India called the USCIRF “an organisation of particular concern”. The Ministry of External Affairs had rejected its claims, saying that the panel’s “misrepresentation has reached new levels”.