Washington, June 12 (KMS): An official American report has voiced concern over the attacks and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities in India.

Mandated by the US Congress, the ”2019 International Religious Freedom Report” that documents major instances of the violation of religious freedom across the world was released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on Wednesday.

The report refers to the revocation of the special status of occupied Kashmir last August and the parliament passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December as major highlights for India last year.

The annual report, submitted by the US Department of State to the US Congress on International Religious Freedom, says, “In December, (Indian) Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which accelerates citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered the country on or before December 31, 2014, but not for similarly-situated migrants who are Muslims, Jews, atheists, or members of other faiths.”

“The law generated widespread media and religious minority criticism, including legal challenges in the Supreme Court. Protests and violent clashes between protesters and security forces in Uttar Pradesh and Assam following the passage of the law resulted in 25 civilian deaths and hundreds of injuries,” it adds.

The report says that in August, the Indian government revoked the special status of Kashmir and split it into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. It says that the move sparked protests, criticism from Muslim leaders, and challenges filed in the Supreme Court from Opposition politicians, human rights activists, and others. It maintains that the Indian government sent thousands of additional troops to the occupied territory, shut down Internet and phone lines, and had not restored full service by year’s end. It says that the Indian government also closed most mosques in Kashmir until mid-December. Seventeen civilians and three forces’ personnel were killed during the protests, it adds.

The report says, “Issues of religiously inspired mob violence, lynching and communal violence were sometimes denied or ignored by lawmakers, according to a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media outlets. There were reports by NGOs that the government sometimes failed to act to prevent or stop mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalised communities and critics of the government.”

“Mob attacks by violent Hindu groups against minority communities, including Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumors that victims had traded or killed cows for beef. Authorities often failed to prosecute perpetrators of such ‘cow vigilantism’, which included killings, mob violence, and intimidation. According to some NGOs, authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution and filed charges against victims,” says the report.

The report mentions the Supreme Court’s decision on the Babri Masjid case too. “Leading national Muslim organisations and some Muslim litigants petitioned the court to review the decision and permit the mosque, which was destroyed by members of Hindu nationalist organisations in 1992, to be rebuilt on its original site. In December, the Supreme Court dismissed these petitions and maintained its ruling,” it said.

The report further says that the US government officials underscored the importance of respecting religious freedom and promoting tolerance and mutual respect throughout the year with the ruling and opposition parties, civil society and religious freedom activists, and religious leaders belonging to various faith communities in India.

In their engagement with government officials, media, interfaith harmony organizations and NGOs, US officials emphasised the need to address the legitimate concerns of the country’s religious minorities, condemn communal rhetoric, and ensure full protection of minorities as guaranteed under the Constitution, it said.

In October, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, in meetings with senior government officials, raised concerns over violence and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, including communal violence, the report added.

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