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Religious minorities in India felt increasingly vulnerable in 2017: US report

Protests against the killing of Junaid Khan last June.

Washington : Members of civil society and religious minorities in India were concerned over minority communities feeling “increasingly vulnerable” due to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against them in 2017, a US report on international religious freedom said on Tuesday. The Congressional-mandated annual report on International Religious Freedom covering 2017 was released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

According to the report, representatives of religious minority communities stated that, while the national government sometimes spoke out against incidents of violence, local political leaders often did not, and at times made public remarks that individuals could interpret as condoning violence. “Members of civil society and religious minorities stated that under the current government, religious minority communities felt increasingly vulnerable due to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against non-Hindu individuals and their places of worship,” the report said.

“Authorities often did not prosecute violence by vigilantes against persons, mostly Muslims, suspected of slaughtering or illegally transporting cows or trading in or consuming beef,” the report said. Citing some court cases such as triple Talaq, it said many long-standing legal cases involving religiously motivated violence and riots continued to advance slowly.

“The government continued its challenge to the minority status of Muslim educational institutions in the Supreme Court. Minority status afforded these institutions independence in hiring and curriculum decisions,” it said. It said on July 13, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned a rise in deadly mob attacks on cattle traders, consumers of beef, and dairy farmers, and said killing persons in the name of protecting cows was unacceptable.

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In a speech at University of Bangalore on August 7, then-Vice President of India Hamid Ansari said Dalits, Muslims, and Christians were feeling increasingly insecure, it noted. In an August 10 interview, Ansari stated there was a feeling of “unease” and “insecurity creeping in” among Muslims in the country. His remarks drew criticism from the BJP and Hindu nationalist groups, the report said.

According to figures compiled by local partners of international non-governmental organisation (NGO) Open Doors, during the first six months of the year, Christians were harassed, threatened, or attacked for their faith in 410 reported incidents, compared with 441 incidents in all of 2016, the report said. From January through May, the Ministry of Home Affairs reported 296 conflicts between religious communities, resulting in 44 deaths and 892 injuries, it said.–AGENCIES

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