Some officials in India are ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship in the country, a US official said, drawing an angry reaction from New Delhi which called the comments “ill-informed”.
The remarks by Rashad Hussain, who leads the US State Department’s efforts to monitor religious freedom around the world, accompanied the department’s annual report on global religious freedom.
It said attacks on members of minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred throughout last year in India. These included cow vigilantism – assaults on non-Hindus for allegedly slaughtering cows or trading in beef.
Many Hindus, who account for about 80% of India’s 1.35 billion people, consider cows sacred. Several states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have enacted laws or toughened old ones against slaughtering cows.
Some Indian officials were “ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship”, Hussain said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the report showed religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities were under threat around the world.
“For example, in India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship,” Blinken said.
India’s foreign ministry said the country values religious freedom and human rights, and that it had noted the “ill-informed comments by senior US officials”.
“It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is being practiced in international relations,” ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.
He also said Indian officials have regularly highlighted “racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence” in the United States.