US report says India’s Central, State governments took steps to affect Muslim practices, institutions

Srinagar: The U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo released the State Department’s 2019 Report on International Freedom, an annual submission it makes to the Congress each year, as mandated by law.

“This mission is not just a Trump administration priority – it’s a deeply personal one. For many years, I was a Sunday school teacher and a deacon at my church,” Pompeo said. “And that might sound unusual to a lot of folks inside the Beltway [ i.e., Washington DC] . But I am one of millions of Americans, and billions of people across the world, who live in the knowledge of a higher power,” he added, reported The Hindu.

Pompeo gave examples of religious persecution during his speech – Asia Bibi in Pakistan, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and others.

“I had a chance to meet with some Uighurs here, but unfortunately, most Chinese Uighurs don’t get a chance to tell their stories. That’s why, in an effort to document the staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang, we’ve added a special section to this year’s China report,” Pompeo said.

The report consists of country-wise chapters, with the chapter on India detailing and discussing mob-related violence, religious conversions, the legal status of minorities and government policies.

The report says that India’s Central and State governments as well as parties took steps to affect 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. 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 report says.

“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 report says.

“Authorities often failed to prosecute perpetrators of ‘cow vigilante’ attacks, which included killings, mob violence, and intimidation,” it added.

The report goes on to say, “There were reports by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that the government sometimes failed to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government. Some senior officials of the Hindu-majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made inflammatory speeches against minority communities… According to some NGOs, authorities often protected perpetrators from prosecution. As of November, there were 18 such attacks, and eight people [were] killed during the year.”

The report notes that the Supreme Court said cow vigilantism is unacceptable and asked States to take steps to prevent it.

The country chapter in the report are prepared by U.S. embassies based on information gathered from government officials, academics, media, journalists, NGOs, human rights monitors, etc. The State Department website says the views “of any particular source are not necessarily those of the United States government.”

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