India slams United States religion report

New Delhi - The Indian government was on Tuesday severely critical of an official US government report that claimed religious freedom in India was on a “negative trajectory” in 2015 as religious tolerance had “deteriorated” and that violations of religious freedom had “increased”.

The report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom also named some top BJP leaders and MPs, including Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj, accusing them of “stoking religious tension”.

The external affairs ministry ripped into the report, saying it “fails to show proper understanding of India, its Constitution and society”. It may be recalled that USCIRF members were denied visas by the Indian government earlier this year on the ground that “religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution and any foreign third party has no locus standi to comment on it or investigate it”.

The external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said the government “does not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”.

US had asked India to pull up officers

In its annual report, USCIRF asked the Indian government to publicly rebuke officials and religious leaders who make derogatory statements about religious communities.

Members of USCIRF were denied visas by Indian government early this year on the argument that religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution and any foreign third party has no locus standi to comment or investigate on it.

“Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups,” the report alleged. USCIRF alleged that members of the ruling BJP tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions.