In a strongly worded statement released on Saturday, June 22, the BJP accused the State Department of the United States of harboring a ‘clear bias’ against the current Modi-led government at the center. Many in Delhi believe that this heated exchange could at some point spiral into a diplomatic incident.
The statement declared that, in an annual report released on Friday discussing international religious freedom, the State Department has clearly displayed a preconceived bias against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
An Overview of the Report
The report in question, entitled the ‘2018 Report on International Religious Freedom’, had leveled harsh criticism against BJP ministers and office-bearers for what it described as ‘hate speech’ while also taking the elected government to task for allegedly protecting cow vigilantes and other such extremist groups.
According to a statement issued by Anil Balunj, the National Media head of the BJP, in response to the report:
“The basic presumption in this report that there is some grand design behind anti-minority violence is simply false.”
He added that usually, most cases of violence against minorities are carried out by individuals or groups with a criminal mindset, as a result of personal or local disputes between communities.
“Whenever needed, Mr. Modi and other BJP leaders have deplored violence against minorities and the weaker sections,” he said.
The report documents the state of religious freedom in every country, excluding the US. It was released by Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, who will be visiting Delhi on June 25 for a meeting with S. Jaishankar, the Minister of External Affairs.
This meeting between Pompeo and Jaishankar is expected to lay the groundwork for a proposed meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump during the G20 Summit, which is to be held later this month in Osaka.
The Ministry of External Affairs has so far refused to comment on the report or answer any questions about whether or not India will be raising objections to its release during Pompeo’s visit.
Incidents of Violence Against Minorities
The 2018 report on International Religious Freedom listed 18 attacks perpetrated against Dalits and Non-Hindus in India during that year, citing the death of 8 individuals in cow-protection incidents. The report also quoted numerous Christian NGOs that had documented cases of violence against churches and priests around the nation.
The report said that many of the attacks were perpetrated on the basis of unsubstantiated rumors that the victims had killed cows for beef consumption. It also claimed that in many cases, the local authorities protected the perpetrators of these hate crimes.
Without naming any leaders or ministers in particular, the report claimed:
“Senior officials of the Hindu-majority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made inflammatory speeches against minority communities.”
In a testimony before the United States Congress on June 13, Alice Wells, an official of the State Department, claimed that the US wanted the leadership in India to condemn violence against religious minorities and punish the perpetrators of these crimes as swiftly as possible.
A Contentious History
Similar reports by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom have in the past placed India on the Tier 2 list of nations that inspired concern within the US government.
In 2005, the US had revoked the visa of the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, as a reaction to the 2002 Gujarat riots. After Mr. Modi was elected to the prime-ministership, the US had quietly dropped the visa ban in 2014.
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