In 2016, religious tolerance and religious freedom conditions continued to deteriorate in India. Hindu nationalist groups— such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)—and their sympathizers perpetrated numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minority communities and Hindu Dalits. These violations were most frequent and severe in 10 of India’s 29 states. National and state laws that restrict religious conversion, cow slaughter, and the foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and a constitutional provision deeming Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains to be Hindus helped create the conditions enabling these violations. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke publicly about the importance of communal tolerance and religious freedom, members of the ruling party have ties to Hindu nationalist groups implicated in religious freedom violations, used religiously divisive language to inflame tensions, and called for additional laws that would restrict religious freedom. These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police and judicial bias and inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity in which religious minorities feel increasingly insecure and have no recourse when religiously motivated crimes occur. Based on these concerns, in 2017 USCIRF again places India on its Tier 2, where it has been since 2009.

India is the world’s largest democracy, with about 1.26 billion people, or about a one-sixth of the total world population. Nearly 80 percent of the population is Hindu; more than 14 percent is Muslim (the third-largest Muslim population in the world); 2.3 percent is Christian; 1.7 percent is Sikh; less than 1 percent is Buddhist; less than 1 percent is Jain; and about 1 percent adheres to other faiths or professes no religion.

India is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, and multicultural country and a secular democracy. Despite these positive characteristics, the Indian government has struggled to maintain religious and communal harmony, protect minority communities from abuses, and provide justice when crimes occur.

The country has experienced periodic outbreaks of large-scale communal violence against religious minorities, including in Uttar Pradesh in 2013, Odisha in 2007–2008, Gujarat in 2002, and Delhi in 1984. Although the government of India established special structures to investigate and adjudicate crimes stemming from these incidents, the impact has been hindered by limited capacity, an antiquated judiciary system, inconsistent use, political corruption, and religious bias, particularly at the state and local levels. Many cases stemming from these incidents are still pending in the India court system. These large-scale outbreaks of communal violence, as well as smaller-scale Hindu nationalist abuses against religious minorities, tend to occur most frequently in 10 Indian states: Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. In at least some of these states, religious freedom violations appear to be systematic, ongoing, and egregious and rise to CPC status. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, other minority communities, and Hindu Dalits recognize that religious freedom issues in India predate the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government. However, they attribute the deterioration in conditions since 2014 to the BJP’s Hindu nationalistic political platform and some of its members’ support of and/or membership in Hindu nationalist groups. The BJP was founded in collaboration with the RSS, and the two maintain close ties at the highest levels. The BJP, RSS, Sangh Parivar, and VHP subscribe to the ideology of Hindutva (“Hinduness”), which seeks to make India a Hindu state based on Hinduism and Hindu values. Some individuals and groups adhering to this ideology are known to use violence, discriminatory acts, and religiously motivated rhetoric against religious minorities, creating a climate of fear and making non-Hindus feel unwelcome in the country. The heightened enforcement against religious minorities by BJP government officials and/or Hindu nationalists of existing constitutional and legal provisions restricting religious conversion, cow slaughter, and foreign funding of NGOs also has contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom in the country. While there was no large-scale communal violence in 2016, the Indian government’s Union Ministry of Home Affairs reported in January 2017 that in the first five months of 2016 there were 278 incidents of communal violence. In 2016, the governmental National Commission for Minorities received 1,288 complaints from minorities regarding such incidents, down from nearly 2,000 in 2015. However, religious minority communities, especially Christians and Muslims, reported to USCIRF that incidents had increased but minorities were afraid or believed it to be pointless to report them.

The report includes following matters in details

  • Violations against Muslims
  • Violations against Christians
  • Violations against Sikhs
  • Violations against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Dalits)
  • Hindu Nationalist Hate Campaigns against Minorities
  • Redress for Past Violence

Read the full text here: 2017 USCIRF Annual Report

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