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Blinken alleges ‘concerning increase’ in hate speech in India

New Delhi has rejected Washington’s insistence that the country has “religious freedom issues”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted on Wednesday that discrimination against minority groups in India had witnessed a “concerning increase.”

He said that the country has seen an uptick in hate speech, the introduction of anti-conversion laws, and the demolition of homes belonging to certain minorities as well as their places of worship.

Blinken made the remark while releasing the 2024 Report on International Religious Freedom, which claimed violent attacks have occurred in India against minority groups, especially Muslims and Christians, including killings, assaults, and the vandalism of houses of worship. 

The report cited alleged attacks against Muslims following allegations that they were killing cows or participating in the illegal beef trade. In several Indian regions, including the national capital Delhi, the slaughter of cattle is completely banned. According to the report, senior US officials have continued to “raise concerns about religious freedom issues” with their counterparts in India. 

Last year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the Biden administration to designate India as a “country of particular concern.” The newly released report notes the USCIRF “expressed disappointment” that India, along with Nigeria, were not designated “despite violations in both countries meeting the legal standard.” 

At present, the US has designated 12 nations, including China, Russia, and North Korea, as “countries of particular concern” and added them to a watch list, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

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Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken deliver brief remarks to the press before meeting at the U.S. State Department September 28, 2023 in Washington, DC.
India hits out at US allegations of ‘human rights abuse’

Earlier this year, Washington raised flags regarding human rights violations in India. In its 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the US State Department said that “significant abuses” had occurred in the Indian state of Manipur last year. An ethnic conflict in the northeastern state resulted in more than 200 casualties and the displacement of thousands of people. The report also noted that attacks on minorities, journalists, and dissenting voices had been recorded elsewhere in the country.

India reacted angrily, slamming the document as “very biased” and claiming that it showed a “very poor understanding” of India. New Delhi has responded sharply on a number of occasions to US criticism of its policies, as well as comments on issues that it regards as “internal matters.”

New Delhi has also taken exception to US comments regarding its new citizenship law, which fast tracks the naturalization of non-Muslims from several neighboring countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

READ MORE: Modi lashes out at critics of India

Although Washington is fostering close ties with New Delhi to counter Beijing’s increasing influence in the region, its comments on internal matters have often irked the Indian government.

Bilateral ties soured last year when US prosecutors alleged the Indian government’s involvement in an assassination attempt against the New York-based Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the founder of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ). His organization, which is pushing to establish a Sikh state in Punjab, has been outlawed by New Delhi, which has designated Pannun as a terrorist.

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June 27, 2024 at 08:05PM

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