The US state department in its annual religious freedom report released last week has revealed that authorities in ‘India failed to prosecute violence by self-proclaimed vigilantes against persons, mostly Muslims who trade or consume beef’.The vigilantes are known as ‘gaurakshaks’ in the country. These gaurakshaks are Hindutva fundamentalists who believe that the cow is sacred to the Hinduism and the killing and sale of cows for dietary purposes must be banned.
The annual report on the state of religious freedom stated: “Members of civil society and religious minorities stated that under the current government, religious minority communities felt increasingly vulnerable due to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against non-Hindu individuals and their places of worship.”
The report, which excludes the US, stated that while the central government spoke out against the incidents of violence, local political leaders often didn’t. According to a story in The Caravan, the state department published the report every year the US view on the state of civil rights and religious freedom around the world. The reports have been the target of criticism for ignoring similar challenges in the US, like a discriminatory travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries or the attacks on Muslims or other minorities in the US.
The report was released by secretary of state Mike Pompeo who said the US plans to call a ministerial meeting on July 25 and July 26.
On India, the report said: “There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytise. There were several violent incidents by so-called ‘cow protection’ groups against mostly Muslim victims, including killings, mob violence, assaults, and intimidation. Authorities often failed to prosecute those committing the attacks.”
The report, citing data collected by India Spend states that 97% of cow vigilante linked violence occurred between 2014 and 2017 and 86% of those killed were Muslims, the highest toll since 2010, when IndiaSpend began collecting data. The report also claims there were 736 attacks on Christians in 2017, citing Union of Catholic Asian News.
The report states: “According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), Persecution Relief, an interdenominational Christian NGO, recorded 736 attacks on Christians during the year, compared with 348 in 2016. The report stated Hindu attacks on Christians doubled as part of an unprecedented trend to portray Christians as acting against the state, the country’s religious tolerance, and the national ethos. Most police complaints filed against Christians reportedly accused them of crimes, including committing sedition, working against religious tolerance, discriminating against others, acting against integration, defiling places of worship, and insulting other religions. The founder of Persecution Relief told UCAN, “In 99 percent of cases, [Hindus] bring false witnesses and charge victimized Christians with serious offenses like sedition.” He added, if sedition charges were proved, the accused could be sentenced to life in prison.” — DNA