By Arul Louis,
New York : The US has accused Indian authorities of not prosecuting cow protection vigilantes attacking Muslims suspected of slaughtering the animals or consuming beef amid “reports of hundreds of religiously motivated killings.”
The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report released on Tuesday said: “Authorities often did not prosecute violence by vigilantes against persons, mostly Muslims, suspected of slaughtering or illegally transporting cows or trading in or consuming beef.”
It added, “There were reports of hundreds of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, restrictions on the right to practice religion and proselytise, discrimination, and attacks on property. Groups most frequently targeted were Muslims and Christians.
“Cow protection groups, many of whose members believed cow slaughter and eating beef were an attack on the Hindu deities representing motherhood, carried out several violent attacks, including killings, beatings, harassment, and intimidation against consumers of beef or those involved in the beef industry,” according to the report.
“Members of civil society and religious minorities said, under the current government, religious minority communities felt more vulnerable to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against non-Hindu individuals and places of worship,” the reported said.
The report, however, also noted that the Supreme Court directed state governments to appoint a senior police officer in each district to prevent and respond effectively to incidents of “cow vigilantism” and chief secretaries to report on actions taken to prevent them.
The annual report was a long compilation of mainly news reports about legislative measures considered against minority interests or incidents of violence against or harassment of minorities.
At a news conference on the report for foreign journalists, the State Department official in charge of the report, Samuel Brownback, denounced India, alleging that “there have been unfortunately a lot of religious violence that has taken place in various communities.”
“We have asked the Indian government to pursue more safety to see justice taking place in these cases where these arise and we will continue to pursue that with the Indian government as with all government all around the world,” he said.
“I get reports directly from individuals that are coming from India (about) violence they have experience because of who they are in their faith, and that is wrong,” said Brownback, who is a convert to Catholicism from a fundamentalist Christian sect.
He holds the title of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and previously as governor of Kansas he took controversial positions reflective of his faith by legislating measures restricting abortions and opposing gay rights.
He said that within 90 days after the publication of the report a list for “countries of particular concern” would be issued for possible sanctions or other action.
“Religious minority communities stated, while the national government sometimes spoke out against incidents of violence, local political leaders often did not, and at times made public remarks that individuals could interpret as condoning violence,” the report said.
The report brought up the Supreme Court ruling the “triple talaq” divorce illegal, including it in a list of matters of concern.
“On August 22, the Supreme Court ruled the practice through which a Muslim man could divorce his wife instantly by saying the word “talaq” (Arabic for divorce) three times was unconstitutional,” the report said.
The report noted that in Andhra and Telengana, “authorities may prohibit proselytising near another religion’s place of worship”.
It raked up the case of a Christian organisation, Compassion International, which shut down its multi-million-dollar operation in India after the Indian government revoked its permission for distributing funds in India because of violations of law.
The report said, “Compassion International maintained that the government used the law to restrict the work of Christian charitable organisations”.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)