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US expresses concern over growing anti-conversion laws, hate speech in India (WATCH)

While releasing the report, the US Secretary of States, Anthony Blinken said: “In India, we see a concerning increase in anti-conversion laws, hate speech, demolitions of homes and places of worship for members of minority faith communities.”

US expresses concern over growing anti-conversion laws, hate speech in India (WATCH) AJR
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First Published Jun 27, 2024, 10:22 AM IST

The United States of America has once again expressed concern over alleged increases in cases of anti-conversion laws, hate speech, demolition of homes and places of worship of members of minority faiths.

The US released the 2023 International Religious Freedom report on Wednesday citing the alleged increase in crimes against the Muslims and Christians in the country.

While releasing the report, the US Secretary of States, Anthony Blinken said: “In India, we see a concerning increase in anti-conversion laws, hate speech, demolitions of homes and places of worship for members of minority faith communities.”

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The IRF report tracked the threats to religious freedom in around 200 countries. With regards to Pakistan, Blinken said “blasphemy laws in Pakistan help foster a climate of intolerance and hatred that can lead to vigilantes and mob violence.”

“Today religious freedom is still not respected by millions of people around the world. Some countries place restrictions on wearing certain types of religious dress; others enforce it. Here in the United States, reports of hate crimes and other incidents targeting both Muslims and Jews have gone up dramatically,” he added.

At the release of the report, Rashad Hussein, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, addressed assembled partners, survivors and civil society representatives.

The report has cited information from religious groups, nongovernmental organizations and international media reports.

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Let's read what the International Religious Freedom report says about India:--

Citing India’s constitution about freedom of conscience and the right of all individuals to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion, the IRF 2023 report found ten of 28 states have formulated laws restricting religious conversions for all faiths. “Some of these states also imposed penalties specifically against forced religious conversions for the purpose of marriage.”

The report mentioned about the gathering of 20,000 Christians in New Delhi to protest increasing violence against them and request greater protections for the Christian community and writing a letter to the prime minister by a group of 93 former senior civil servants over concerns regarding “continued harassment” of Christians in particular by government officials and political party leaders associated with the government. 

The report stated the members of Christian and Muslim communities were arrested under laws banning forced religious conversions.

The report further added that in 2023, senior US officials continued to raise concerns about religious freedom issues with their Indian counterparts. 

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In April 2023, Blinken also discussed developments in religious freedom with women leaders.   

Mentioning India's National Crimes Record Bureau, the IRF report said there were 272 instances of communal violence in 2022 compared with 378 in 2021. 

“Attacks on members of religious minority groups, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred in various states throughout the year, including cases of “cow vigilantism” based on allegations that Muslim men were participating in cow slaughter or trade in beef.”

“There were also attacks on religious leaders, disruption of Christian and Muslim worship services, vandalism of religious minorities’ houses of worship, and violence between religious groups.  Islamic groups in Jammu and Kashmir also reportedly attacked non-Muslims during the year.”

It also talked about the new criminal laws which were passed by Parliament in December 2023. “… included provisions to criminalize making false promises and concealing one’s identity to sexually exploit a woman, including for marriage.”

The report also mentioned about the violence in Manipur that started on May 3 between Kuki and Meitei ethnic groups.

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The report said: “The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum and international media said that at least 253 churches were burned down, more than 200 persons were killed and more than 60,000 displaced due to the violence.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the State Department does not track threats to religious minorities in the United States in its annual report.

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