Religious freedom conditions continued 'downward trend' in India; USCIRF

Source: PTI | By I.G. Bhatkali | Published on 28th April 2018, 1:03 AM | National News | Global News |

Washington: Religious freedom conditions continued a "downward trend" in India last year as Hindu-nationalist groups sought to "saffronise" it through violence, intimidation, and harassment of non-Hindus and Hindu Dalits, a US federal government appointed commission has said.

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its latest report, has placed India in the Tier 2 countries along with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhastan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey.

"Conditions for religious minorities have deteriorated over the last decade due to a multifaceted campaign by Hindu-nationalist groups like the RSS, Sangh Parivar, and VHP to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus," the USCIRF said.

The victims of this campaign include Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, as well as Dalit Hindus, the USCIRF said in its latest annual report on international religious freedom.

"These groups face challenges ranging from acts of violence or intimidation to the loss of political power to increasing feelings of disenfranchisement and otherness," it said.

Approximately one-third of state governments enforced anti-conversion and/or anti-cow slaughter laws against non-Hindus.

Forced conversions of non-Hindus to Hinduism through "homecoming" ceremonies (ghar wapsi) were reported and rules on the registration of foreign-funded NGOs were used discriminatorily against religious minority groups, the report said.

At the same time, the report said that despite an overall deterioration of religious freedom conditions in 2017, there were positive developments.

"Some government entities have made efforts to counter increasing intolerance in the country," the USCIRF said. The active and independent judiciary, exemplified by India’s Supreme Court, decided several cases during the year that protect the rights of religious minorities, it said.

In its report, the USCIRF has urged the US government to integrate concern for religious freedom into bilateral discussions with India.

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