Reacting strongly to a US report which said religious freedom in India was on a “negative trajectory” in 2015, India on Tuesday said it “fails to show proper understanding of India, its constitution and its society”. Here is a list of the findings made by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in the past five years.
2016: The key findings of the 2016 report places the strongest emphasis on deteriorating religious tolerance, violence caused by Hindu nationalist groups and the support these groups receive from the ruling BJP party. The insecurities faced by the religious minorities and the lower Hindu castes have been pointed out to. Additionally, the report draws attention to restrictive laws on cow slaughter and religious conversions. “Moreover, an Indian constitutional provision deeming Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains to be Hindus, contradicts international standards of freedom of religion or belief,” says the report while placing India among the tier 2 countries where the country has been since 2009.
2015: The report then also emphasised cases of communal violence, which it said was a recurring feature for the past three years. Placing an onus on the administration of the ruling party, the 2015 report had concluded that “since the election, 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).”
2014: While the report drew attention to increased activities of religiously motivated violence against religious minorities, the reason for it was reported to be the general elections which were held that year. “Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian, and Sikh communities, attribute the increase to India’s general election and some politicians’use of religiously divisive language,” said the report.
2013: Unlike the reports of the three coming years, the report in 2013 mentioned that “There has been no large-scale communal violence against religious minorities in India since 2008, and in recent years the Indian government has created special investigative and judicial structures in an effort to address previous such attacks.” However, it stressed on the fact that very slow progress was being made in achieving justice for victims of previous cases of religiously motivated attacks.
2012: Similar to the 2013 report, in 2012 too the USCRIF had reported that no large-scale communal violence had taken place in the country since 2008. It had emphasised upon the slow judicial recognition of previous instances of communal violence, though it laid out that the government had in fact created structures at various levels to address these issues.