CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 August 2018

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Report says Indian government ignoring religious violence

SRINAGAR (UCAN): The United States (US) Commission on International Religious Freedom has accused the Indian government of doing little to prevent violence against religious minorities and socially poor Dalit people.
 
The commission’s latest report, released on April 25, said the government of prime minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi, of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has not addressed the problem of sectarian violence despite government statistics showing that sectarian violence has increased sharply over the past two years.
 
The report placed India among its Tier 2 countries along with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey. 
 
Tier 2 countries have at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing and egregious” standard in a set of criteria the commission uses to gauge violations of religious freedom.
 
Ten countries, including Pakistan, are in the worst category.
 
The report noted that Hindu groups lynched at least 10 Indians in the name of cow protection.
 
“In 2017, religious freedom conditions continued a downward trend in India. India’s history as a multicultural and multi-religious society remained threatened by an increasing exclusionary conception of national identity based on religion,” the report said.
 
The report noted that Hindu nationalist groups, working to turn India into a Hindu-only nation, stepped up their actions through violence, intimidation and harassment against non-Hindus and Hindu Dalit people, with both public and private actors pursuing this effort.
 
About one third of state governments enforced “anti-conversion and/or anti-cow slaughter laws against non-Hindus, and mobs engaged in violence against Muslims or Dalits whose families have been engaged in the dairy, leather or beef trades for generations, and against Christians for proselytizing,” the report stated.
 
A major reason for the poor rating was the bolstering of nationalist Hindu forces in an otherwise secular country, leading to a rise in vigilantism and violence against minority communities, particularly Muslims and Christians.
 
Even government records, presented in parliament on February 6, show increased sectarian violence. In 2017, 111 persons were killed and at least 2,384 injured in 822 communal clashes across the country.
 
In 2016, 86 persons were killed and 2,321 injured in 703 incidents.  In 2015, there were 751 incidents. 
 
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said that atrocities against religious minorities continue unabated. 
 
He cited a recent case in which two Protestant pastors were forcefully taken to a temple where ash applied to their foreheads as a sign of accepting the Hindu religion.
 
The Indian government has rejected the findings of the US commission.
 
Speaking to reporters in New Dehli, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Vikas Swarup, said, “The report appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its constitution and its society. We take no cognizance of the report.” 

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