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India says US religious freedom report deeply biased, driven by vote-bank

New Delhi: India on Friday, June 28, categorically rejected criticism against it in an annual US State Department report on international religious freedom, describing it as deeply biased and visibly driven by vote-bank considerations.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said the report selectively picked incidents to advance a preconceived narrative against India.

In his remarks at the release of the report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there has been a “concerning increase” in anti-conversion laws, hate speech and demolitions of homes and places of worship of members of minority faith communities in India.

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“As in the past, the report is deeply biased, lacks an understanding of India’s social fabric and is visibly driven by votebank considerations and a prescriptive outlook,” Jaiswal said.

“We therefore reject it. The exercise itself is a mix of imputations, misrepresentations, selective usage of facts, reliance on biased sources and a one-sided projection of issues,” he said.

The MEA spokesperson said, “It has selectively picked incidents to advance a preconceived narrative as well. In some cases, the very validity of laws and regulations are questioned by the report.”

Jaiswal said the report also appears to challenge the integrity of certain judgments given by Indian courts.

Religious leaders condemn report

Meanwhile, the report has also drawn criticism from the religious leaders in India, who expressed strong reservations to Blinken’s assertions.

Syed Naseeruddin Chishti, President of the All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council and successor to the spiritual head of Ajmer Dargah denounced the report as “false, bogus, and fabricated”.

Haji Syed Salman Chishti, President of the Chishti Foundation of Ajmer, Rajasthan, dismissed the report, stating: “Opinions of other countries do not matter to us. Our Constitution, law and order, and infrastructure are capable of handling internal matters. Our Constitution protects all our rights and allows us to follow any religion of our choice.”

Nirmal Singh, President of the Central Singh Sabha Gurdwara, also criticised the report, claiming: “The American report is wrong. India is living in a golden age. Today, people of every religion are represented in the Parliament.”

“If America had raised this question in the 1980s or 1990s, I would have supported it. But today, festivals are celebrated grandly, and we also receive funding,” he added.

The National Coordinator of the Indian Sarva Dharma Parliament, Maharshi Bhrigu Peethadhishwar Goswami Sushil Maharaj, denounced the report and said: “India is the only country where everyone is safe, regardless of religion or community. I reject this report. Minorities are the safest in India, and this report is just an attempt to weaken the country.”

Labelling the report as “baseless and fabricated”, President of Takht Sri Patna Sahib Jagjot Singh Sohi echoed similar sentiments.

He said: “The minorities in India are safe and secure in India, especially under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They (minorities) are getting equal opportunities, and they are flourishing in every sphere.”

Wamik Warsi of Deva Sharif Dargah in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, also expressed his disapproval of the US report.

(With inputs from agencies)

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