Home / News / World /  US reiterates concern for religious freedom in India

Stating that the United States is concerned about religious communities in India, US ambassador at large for international religious freedom Rashad Hussain has said that Washington is "directly dealing" with Indian officials to address the challenges.

“India now has a citizenship law that’s on the books. We have had open calls for genocide in India. We have had attacks on churches. We have had a ban on the hijab. We have had demolitions of homes," said the Indian-American diplomat while addressing the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington.

"We have got rhetoric that’s openly being used that’s dehumanising towards people, to the extent that one minister referred to Muslims as termites," he added.

In view of this, said Hussain: "You have these ingredients. So, it's important that we take note and work towards the challenges we face."

Further, he said that it is the “responsibility" of the United States to speak out on human rights and religious freedoms not just in India, but across the world.

In his remarks, Hussain also said that he had met with Indian Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and the indigenous people.

He recalled that the Early Warning Project of the US Holocaust Museum had “designated India as the number two country in the world at risk of mass killings."

"For any society to live up to its potential, we have to secure the rights of all people. Our job is to protect the religious freedom of all people everywhere in the world" he said.

“It is important that we work together and fight for the rights of all people. If there is anyone who is attacked - there was an attack yesterday, it was despicable — we have to condemn that too," he said, referring to the killing of a tailor in Udaipur.

Hussain also rejected the view that the US had no locus standi in assessing global religious freedoms.

He was referring to the criticism that followed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks “about [the] attacks on places and people of worship… in India," made while releasing the US Department of State’s 2021 International Religious Freedom Report on 2 June.

“Some people ask, 'Who are you as an ambassador for international religious freedom', or 'who are you as the United States to make these assessments about other countries in the world?'," he said.

"The fairly persuasive answer to this was that the US was founded on religious freedom: many of our founders were fleeing religious persecution themselves. The first amendment in our Constitution protects the freedom of religion," he added.

This comes even as India has repeatedly rejected the criticism against it in the US State Department reports on religious freedom and statements by senior officials, saying it is unfortunate that "vote bank politics" is being practised in international relations.

The annual report on international religious freedom, released by Secretary of State Blinken alleged that attacks on members of the minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, took place throughout 2021 in India.

In its reaction, India had expressed concern over racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence in the US.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said the observation on India in the report is based on "motivated inputs and biased views".

"It is unfortunate that vote bank politics is being practised in international relations. We would urge that assessments based on motivated inputs and biased views be avoided," Bagchi said last month.

"As a naturally pluralistic society, India values religious freedom and human rights. In our discussions with the US, we have regularly highlighted issues of concern there, including racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes and gun violence," he added.

With inputs from agencies.

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