The US State Department released a Religious Freedom Report 2022 and expressed serious concerns about the state of religious freedom and minority rights in India.
The report highlights instances of violence, discrimination, and restrictions faced by religious minorities in several states across the country.
According to Religious Freedom Report 2022, there have been numerous cases of violence by law enforcement authorities against members of religious minorities. In one incident, plainclothes police in Gujarat publicly flogged four Muslim men accused of injuring Hindu worshippers during a festival. Additionally, the Madhya Pradesh State government was reported to have bulldozed Muslim-owned homes and shops following communal violence in Khargone.
These actions were condemned by UN special rapporteurs who expressed their concerns about the arbitrary and punitive demolitions targeting Muslim minorities and low-income communities. The report further points out that religious conversion laws in thirteen out of twenty-eight states have been used to restrict religious conversions for all faiths.
Some of these laws specifically penalize forced religious conversions for the purpose of marriage. However, state high courts have historically dismissed cases brought under these laws. Christian groups claim that Christians are increasingly targeted using these anti-conversion laws, with allegations of forced conversion leading to attacks, arrests, and detention by the police.
The report also highlights incidents where police have arrested Christians accused of forcing others to convert, often with allegations that the disrupted worship services were forcibly converting Hindus. Furthermore, there have been cases of arrests of Hindus attacking those accused of forced conversions.
The enforcement of anti-conversion laws has expanded to non-Hindus in states like Haryana and Karnataka, leading to concerns among religious minority communities.
Attacks on religious minority communities, including killings assaults, and intimidation, have been reported throughout the year. Incidents of “cow vigilantism” based on allegations of cow slaughter or beef trade have targeted non-Hindus.
There have also been attacks on pastors, disruption of Christian and Muslim worship services, and vandalism of churches. Christian organizations have reported an increase in anti-Christian incidents, urging the government to take action to address these issues.
The report highlights inflammatory remarks made by religious leaders, academics, political figures, and activists targeting religious minorities.
As concerns persist, the international community, including the United Nations and various countries, has condemned incidents of violence, discrimination, and inflammatory rhetoric targeting religious minorities in India. The report concludes by calling on the Indian government to address these issues and uphold its constitutional commitment to freedom of conscience, religious freedom, and the rights of religious minorities