WASHINGTON, Aug.17 (APP) There were reports of hundreds of religiously motivated killings and assaults across India , including an increase in violent incidents by cow protection groups against mostly Muslims victims, according to the latest annual report issued by the US State Department. According to the 2016 International Religious Freedom report, groups most frequently targeted in India were Muslims and Christians and there were reports of restrictions on the right to practice religion. Violence by Hindu nationalists have seen rise under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to a joint report by two rights groups ” the Mumbai-based Center for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and the UK-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG), there was a spike in communal violence in India since the government of Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014″. the joint report released in June, quoting official statistics, said that there were more than 700 outbreaks of communal violence in 2016 in India that killed 86 and injured 2,321 people.
The number could be higher as many cases go unreported. The US annual report that was released on Tuesday quoted the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) that there were more than 300 incidents of abuse targeting Christians during 2016 compared with 177 in 2015. “Incidents included assaults on missionaries, forced conversions of non-Hindus, and attacks on churches, schools, and private property. Administrators at some Muslim and Christian schools and graveyards denied their facilities to interreligious couples or their children”. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reported 751 conflicts between religious communities, which resulted in 97 deaths and 2,264 injuries in 2015. According to the report, some senior US government visitors underscored the importance of tolerance throughout the year, including the Secretary of State during his August visit to New Delhi. The US embassy and four consulates general also continued to discuss continued to discuss religious freedom issues with political leaders, state and local officials, religiously affiliated organizations, and civil society groups from all religious communities. A disturbing development in violence is the increasing attacks on Muslims by the so-called cow protection groups who believed cow slaughter and eating beef were an attack on the Hindu deities. These groups carried out an increasing number of violent attacks, including killings, beatings, harassment, and intimidations against those eating or involved in the beef industry. “According to the MHA 2015-16 Annual Report, 751 communal incidents (defined by authorities as violent conflicts involving religious communities on the issues of organizing religious congregations, desecration of religious symbols, and the ownership of community properties and facilities) took place in 2015, resulting in 97 deaths and 2,264 injuries,”, the US report said.
Statistics showed an increase in overall instances of communal violence reported compared to the previous year when the MHA recorded 644 communal incidents, resulting in 95 deaths and 1,921 injuries. In contrast, the report reported increasing religious tolerance in some parts of the world, said Ambassador Michael Kozak, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor while launching the report. For instance, he said, in Tunisia, there was a remarkable display of government support for the annual pilgrimage to the Djerba island synagogue. “And in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates and Oman allowed the construction of churches to host large expatriate communities, as well as Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras,” he added.