India trashes US govt report on status of minorities

India trashes US govt report on status of minorities
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New Delhi: India on Sunday rejected a US State Department report which made certain critical comments regarding the status of minorities here, saying it has "no locus standi" to "pronounce on the state of our citizens' constitutionally protected rights".

In response to a query on the latest 'Report on International Religious Freedom' published by the State Department, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar underlined that India is a vibrant democracy where the fundamental rights of all its citizens, including minorities, are protected under the Constitution.

"We see no locus standi for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens' constitutionally protected rights," he said.

Significantly, the report was released just ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to India from June 25.

The report said that mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against the minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018, amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef.

The US State Department in its annual 2018 International Religious Freedom Report alleged that some senior officials of the ruling BJP made inflammatory speeches against the minority communities.

"Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef," it said.

According to some NGOs, the authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution, it said.

The report said that as of November, there were 18 such attacks, and eight people killed during the year.

"India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion," Raveesh Kumar said.

"The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens, including its minority communities," the MEA spokesperson asserted.

"It is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and rule of law further promote and protect the fundamental rights."

On June 22, two Uttar Pradesh police officers were charged with culpable homicide after a Muslim cattle trader died of injuries sustained while being questioned in police custody, the US report said.

Mandated by the Congress, the State Department in its voluminous report gives its assessment of the status of religious freedom in almost all the countries and territories of the world.

Releasing the report at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the report was like a report card which tracks countries to see how well they have respected this fundamental human right.

In the India section, the State Department said that there were reports by nongovernmental organizations that the government sometimes failed to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalised communities and critics of the government.

The State Department said that the central and state governments and members of political parties took steps that affected Muslim practices and institutions.

The government continued its challenge in the Supreme Court to the minority status of Muslim educational institutions, which affords them independence in hiring and curriculum decisions, it said.

"Proposals to rename Indian cities with Muslim provenance continued, most notably the renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj. Activists said these proposals were designed to erase Muslim contributions to Indian history and had led to increased communal tensions," the State Department 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 proselytize, the annual report said.

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