Hindu nationalism 'eroding' India's secularism: report

Last Updated 19 September 2018, 10:41 IST

Hindu nationalism has been a rising political force in India in recent decades, "eroding" its secular nature, a US Congressional report has claimed, as it warned that social media platforms provide "both tacit and overt sanction" for rising incidents of "majoritarian violence" in the country.

In its report, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) -- an independent and bi-partisan research wing of US Congress -- mentioned specific areas of alleged religiously-motivated repression and violence, including state-level anti-conversion laws, cow protection vigilantism and perceived assaults on freedom of expression and operations by non-governmental organisations that are seen as harmful to India's secular traditions.

The CRS' reports are neither an official report of the US Congress nor reflect the view of Congressmen. They are prepared by independent experts for the lawmakers to take informed decisions.

The report titled 'India: Religious Freedom issues', said, "Religious freedom is explicitly protected under its Constitution. Hindus account for a vast majority (nearly four-fifths) of the country's populace. Hindu nationalism has been a rising political force in recent decades, by many accounts eroding India's secular nature and leading to new assaults on the country's religious freedom." A copy of the report dated August 30 was made available to PTI on Thursday.

Authored by South Asian Specialist Alan Kronstadt, the report was prepared for members of the US Congress ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi on September 6.

Several lawmakers had urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to raise the issue of religious freedom with Indian leaders during the 2+2 talks.

Running into more than 20 pages, the report warned that India's social media platforms provide “both tacit and overt sanction for rising incidents of majoritarian violence in the country.

The report said the 2014 national election victory of the BJP brought newly-acute attention to the issue of religious freedom in India.

The BJP has since gone on to win control of numerous state governments, including in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state with more than 200 million residents, one-fifth of them Muslim, it said.

The CRS report said perceived "abuses" have produced friction in the US-India relationship, including within the US Congress.

(Published 14 September 2018, 16:11 IST)

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