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Modi govt now maintains silence over critical US reports on religious freedom

New Delhi also refrained from reacting to a recent report by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 14 May 2021, 03:45 IST
Last Updated : 14 May 2021, 03:45 IST
Last Updated : 14 May 2021, 03:45 IST
Last Updated : 14 May 2021, 03:45 IST

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The Government on Thursday maintained silence on an official report by President Joe Biden’s administration in the United States, although it took note of allegations of discrimination against minorities in India and particularly referred to the campaign blaming the Tablighi Jamaat for the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

New Delhi also refrained from reacting to a recent report by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, which reiterated its 2020 recommendation and asked the Biden administration to designate India as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ in view of the “drastic downward turn” in religious freedom in the South Asian nation.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government dismissed the critical remarks about the status of religious freedom in India in the earlier reports compiled by the USCIRF and the US State Department, it chose to keep mum this year.

The US State Department’s “2020 Report on International Religious Freedom” was published on Wednesday. Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, himself, released it in Washington D.C.'

It noted that the government and media had initially attributed some of the spread of the Covid-19 in the country to a conference held in New Delhi in March 2020 by the Islamic Tablighi Jamaat organisation, after it had been reported that six of the attendees had been tested positive for the virus.

The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India had initially claimed a majority of the country’s early Covid-19 cases had been linked to the Tablighi Jamaat event. Some members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had said that the conference attendees had spread Covid-19 “like terrorism,” which politicians and some media outlets had described as “Corona Jihad”, the US State Department noted. It had also mentioned that the courts across India had later dismissed numerous charges filed against Tablighi Jamaat members.

The report also referred to the riot in Delhi in February 2020, which was triggered by communal clashes between the groups supporting and protesting the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, introduced by the Modi government in December 2019. It also took note of reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice and speak about their religious beliefs in India.

The USCIRF – an “independent, bipartisan federal government entity” established by the US Congress – also issued its annual report on international religious freedom on April 21 last. It had noted the BJP-led government enacted the CAA, which provided a fast track to citizenship in India, only for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It added that the CAA potentially exposed millions of Muslims to detention, deportation and statelessness when the government would complete its planned nationwide National Register of Citizens.

Soon after the US State Department had issued its 2019 report on international religious freedom with critical remarks on India, the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi had dismissed it as an “internal document” of the American government, stressing that no foreign entity had any locus standi to pronounce on the state of the constitutionally protected rights of the citizens of India. New Delhi had also dismissed the USCIRF’s report last year, calling it “biased and prejudiced”.

The Modi government, however, refrained from issuing any such statement reacting to the reports issued by the USCIRF and the US State Department.

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Published 13 May 2021, 17:55 IST

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