Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cited “rising” attacks on people at places of worship in India among ongoing violations of freedom of religion around the world.
A senior US State Department official went further and accused Indian officials of “ignoring or even supporting” these attacks.
Neither official named names or made any specific mention of incidents. Their remarks came at the release of the State Department’s 2021 annual report on the state of freedom of religion around the world.
“In India, the world’s largest democracy, and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people in places of worship,” Blinken said. He did not specify them, but the 2000-page report indicated these attacks were carried out at Christian and Muslim places of worship.
Rashad Hussain, the State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large for international religious freedom, said at the release of the report that was brought out under his leadership, that: “In India, some officials are ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship.”
The State Department report did not, however, go as far as to name India as a “country of particular concern”, disregarding a recommendation from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an American Watchdog on global religious rights, for the second successive year.This body has been a strident critic of India in the past and even attempted to send officials to India on fact-finding missions that were blocked by New Delhi.
Meanwhile, in a strongly worded response to remarks by secretary of state Antony Blinken and other officials about attacks “on people in places of places of worship” in India, the New Delhi also weaved in the issue of gun violence saying this has been regularly highlighted by Indian authorities in discussions with the US along with hate crimes like racially and ethnically motivated attacks.
The MEA said in response it had noted the release of the report and “ill-informed comments by senior US officials”.
“It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is being practiced in international relations. We would urge that assessments based on motivated inputs and biased views be avoided,” said spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
The Indian government however, didn’t clarify what it meant by vote bank politics.
“As a naturally pluralistic society, India values religious freedom and human rights. In our discussions with the US, we have regularly highlighted issues of concern there, including racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence,” he added.
The latest annual report on international religious freedom alleged that attacks on members of the minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, took place in India throughout 2021.
The report claimed that attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation occurred throughout the year. “These included incidents of cow vigilantism’ against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or trade-in beef,” said the India section of the report.