On May 3, all major media outlets in the country covered a report by US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which said that incidents of violence against religious minorities by right-wing fundamentalists increased during the current tenure of Modi government.
An excerpt of the report read, âMinority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions.â
"These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police bias and judicial inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity, where religious minority communities feel increasingly insecure, with no recourse when religiously-motivated crimes occur.â
The report was further critical of statements made by senior BJP leaders calling for laws to restrict Muslim population and the government revoking licenses of NGOs on legal grounds related to foreign funding.
The wide coverage on the matter prompted a reaction from the government with MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup saying, âOur attention has been drawn to the recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which once again fails to show proper understanding of India, its constitution and its society.â
âIndia is a vibrant pluralistic society founded on strong democratic principles. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion. The government does not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizensâ constitutionally protected rights. We take no cognizance of their report,â Swarup added.
Incidentally, earlier this year in March, a team of USCIRF was denied visas by Indian authorities. Indian Express reported that visas were denied to some delegates of the body in 2001 and 2009 as well.
However, in response to the USCIRF report, which suggested a rise in communal violence since the Modi government came to power, Newslaundry in December
2015 published an analysis to the contrary. It claimed that incidences of communal violence in India have been similar irrespective of the political party in power at the centre based on official data.
The report pointed out UP, MP and Maharashtra as being the most communally charged states with 1416, 1243 and 1113 incidents of communal violence respectively, with all of them being ruled by different political parties.
While UP was ruled by SP and BSP simultaneously in that period, MP and Maharashtra were ruled by BJP and Congress respectively.
The report also pointed out that although there was a rise in instances of communal violence in India in 2015 compared to 2014, the number was far higher in 2013.
The aforementioned data hence, rubbishes the notion that India dramatically went on a âdownward trajectoryâ as claimed by the US body.
Moreover, as pointed out by seasoned journalist Tavleen Singh in one of her columns published in IE on April 25, there had been no major communal crisis in the past two years since Modi came to power.
She holds the media (including international) guilty of blowing those incidents out of proportion and says the notion of growing intolerance is just a by-product of Modi government being inaccessible to the media.
Singh suggests the vacuum leads to the creation of unwarranted narratives such as this.
According to its website, USCIRF describes itself as an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.
In other words, the body has no importance when it comes to the International Law Commission established by the United Nations General Assembly and the Indian government is justified in issuing a statement countering the reportâs findings.
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