India Rejects US Religious Freedom Report as “Deeply Biased”


New Delhi, June 28: Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal addressed the release of the US State Department’s 2023 International Religious Freedom report and rejected it calling it Biased, and lacking understanding of India’s social fabric.

Jaiswal in a weekly press briefing firmly stated, “We have noted the release by the US State Department of its report on International Religious Freedom for 2023. As in the past, the report is deeply biased, lacks understanding of India’s social fabric, and is visibly driven by vote bank considerations and a prescriptive outlook. We, therefore, reject it.”

The statement from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) elaborated on several key points of contention. “The exercise itself is a mix of imputations, misrepresentations, selective usage of facts, reliance on biased sources, and a one-sided projection of issues. This extends even to the depiction of our Constitutional provisions and duly enacted laws of India. It has selectively picked incidents to advance a pre-conceived narrative as well.”

Raising specific concerns, the spokesperson noted, “In some cases, the very validity of laws and regulations are questioned by the report, as are the right of legislatures to enact them. The report also appears to challenge the integrity of certain legal judgements given by Indian courts.”

The statement continued, “The report has also targeted regulations that monitor misuse of financial flows into India. Suggesting that the burden of compliance is unreasonable, it seeks to question the need for such measures. On its own part, the United States has even more stringent laws and regulations and would surely not prescribe such solutions for itself.”

Explaining further, Jaiswal added, “Human rights and respect for diversity have been and remain a legitimate subject of discussion between India and the United States. In 2023, India has officially taken up numerous cases in the US of hate crimes, racial attacks on Indian nationals and other minorities, vandalization and targeting of places of worship, violence and mistreatment by law enforcement authorities, as well as the according of political space to advocates of extremism and terrorism abroad.” He cautioned, however, that “such dialogues should not become a license for foreign interference in other polities.”

The US State Department, under Secretary Antony J. Blinken, released its annual report on international religious freedom, yesterday which highlighted several concerns regarding India along with several other countries.

The report stated, “In India, we see a concerning increase in anti-conversion laws, hate speech, demolitions of homes and places of worship for members of minority faith communities.” The report also documented instances of societal violence occurring with impunity, contributing to the repression of religious communities. It noted specific cases where “Christian communities reported that local police aided mobs that disrupted worship services over accusations of conversion activities or stood by while mobs attacked them and then arrested the victims on conversion charges.”

The State Department’s report emphasised its vision for a future where everyone can choose and practice their beliefs freely, highlighting the importance of religious freedom as a fundamental human right.

The report mentioned that respecting religious freedom reinforces other rights, such as the right to speak freely, to assemble peacefully, and to participate in politics.

It pointed out that religious freedom is still not respected by millions worldwide, citing findings from the Pew Research Center indicating that government restrictions on religion have reached their highest global level since 2007.

The report also noted that violent extremist groups continue to target people based on their faith, with recent attacks on places of worship in Russia’s Dagestan region and increased antisemitism and Islamophobia following the conflict in Gaza.

It documented various global examples, including blasphemy laws in Pakistan fostering intolerance and violence, antisemitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric in Hungary, and bans on religious clothing in several European countries.

The MEA’s strong response underscores India’s rejection of the US report’s findings and its call for mutual respect and non-interference in domestic affairs.__GK News