The United States has urged India to take action against persistent religious violence in the country, just one month before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit. The US State Department released its annual report on religious freedom on Monday, which highlighted attacks on religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians, in India under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.
A senior US official, speaking anonymously to reporters, expressed disappointment at the ongoing religious violence and called on the Indian government to condemn it. “Regarding these concerns, we’re continuing to encourage the government to condemn violence and hold accountable (those) who engage in rhetoric that’s dehumanizing towards religious minorities,” the official said.
The State Department report was based on research and accounts by media and advocacy groups, and noted instances of home demolitions against Muslims and public flogging of Muslims by police accused of injuring Hindus in Gujarat state.
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While India has been critical of American criticism of its religious freedom record, the US has been building warmer relations with the country over the years, partly as a response to China. Although the State Department is expected to list “countries of particular concern” on religious freedom later this year, it is unlikely that India will be included.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not mention India as he presented the report, but expressed concern over actions by authorities in China, Iran, Myanmar, and Nicaragua. “We defend the right to believe—or to not believe—not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because of the extraordinary good that people of faith can do in our societies and around the world,” he said.
During the briefing, the US official promised to work with civil society organizations and journalists in India to monitor and document instances of religious violence. The United States remains committed to promoting and defending religious freedom around the world.