NEW DELHI: The International Religious Freedom Report for 2020, prepared by the US State Department and submitted to the US Congress, has expressed concerns about the discrimination and violence faced by religious and ethnic minorities in India.
“Among the issues discussed were the Muslim community’s concerns about the CAA, difficulties faced by faith-based NGOs in the wake of amendments to the FCRA, and allegations that Muslims spread the Covid-19 virus,” the report noted.
It further observed that there were “reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice and speak about their religious beliefs”.
The report is an annual document submitted to the US Congress that documents major instances of the violation of religious freedom across the world. It was released by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
According to the section of the report that deals with India, US officials including those from the Embassy, during meetings with their Indian counterparts, have stressed on the importance of religious freedom and the responsibility of democracies to ensure the rights of religious minorities.
India has consistently dismissed such reports from the US, claiming there is no locus standi for foreign governments to assess the state of its citizens with regard to rights that are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution.
Saying that at least 10 of 28 Indian states have laws that restrict religious conversions, the report states that citizens must practice their religion in a way that they do not adversely affect health, morality or public order.
Report praises Modi’s message of brotherhood
The report took note of the message of ‘unity and brotherhood’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after members of the Tablighi Jamaat last year were being targeted in the wake of the first wave of Covid-19.
“Prime Minister Modi tweeted on April 19, ‘COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood’,” the State Department noted