By Rakesh Raman
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its 2015 Annual Report, which has documented religious freedom violations in 33 countries.
The report has kept India in a list of 10 countries where increased U.S. government attention is required to check the growing incidents of communal violence and human rights abuses.
The 237-page report states that despite India’s status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, the country has long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occur, which perpetuates a climate of impunity.
Similar views were expressed by the U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit in India. Obama had expressed his concern over the communal violence and religious hatred in the country. He also suggested that the Indian government must ensure religious freedom for all its citizens.
Incidents of religiously motivated and communal violence have increased for three consecutive years, the USCIRF report reveals.
It further says that the states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarhi, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan tend to have the greatest number of religiously motivated attacks and communal violence incidents.
According to the report, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian, and Sikh communities, attributed the initial increase to religiously divisive campaigning in advance of the country’s 2014 general election.
Since the election, the report says, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Meanwhile, a US-based terrorism threat management group has put RSS in the list of terrorist organizations, saying “RSS is a shadowy, discriminatory group that seeks to establish a Hindu Rashtra, a Hindu Nation. The group is considered the radical ideological parent group of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party – the Indian Peoples Party (BJP).”
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