US Commission on International Religious Freedom points to "numerous" attacks on Muslims and Christians, accusing Modi government of promoting an "ideological vision of a Hindu state" through policies hostile to minorities.

Hindu monks known for their incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric have been calling for Rohingya-type ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims.
Hindu monks known for their incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric have been calling for Rohingya-type ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims. (Reuters Archive)

Religious freedom has deteriorated "significantly" in India under the Hindu nationalist government, a US commission has said as it again recommended targeted sanctions over abuses.

It was the third straight year that the US Commission on International Religious Freedom asked that India be placed on a list of "countries of particular concern" –– a recommendation that has angered New Delhi and is virtually certain to be dismissed by the State Department.

In an annual report, the panel –– which is appointed to offer recommendations but does not set US policy –– voiced wide concern about South Asia and also backed the State Department's inclusion of Pakistan on the blacklist.

In India, the commission pointed to "numerous" attacks on religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, in 2021 as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government promoted "its ideological vision of a Hindu state" through policies hostile to minorities.

"Religious freedom conditions in India significantly worsened," the report said.

"The Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies —including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities." the report also noted.

It pointed to a "culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups" and arrests of journalists and human rights advocates.

"Government action, including the continued enforcement of anti-conversion laws against non-Hindus, has created a culture of impunity for nationwide campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups, including against Muslims and Christians accused of conversion activities," it added.

In a shift from the past two years, no one on the panel dissented from the recommendation on India, commissioner Anurima Bhargava told reporters.

READ MORE: Muslim homes razed as clashes mar Hindu festival in India

Ethnic cleansing demands

The Indian government in previous years has angrily rejected the commission's findings, accusing it of bias.

President Joe Biden, like Donald Trump before him, has sought to increase ties with India, seeing common cause in the face of a rising China.

Biden is expected to meet Modi next month in Tokyo as part of a four-way summit of the "Quad" with Japan and Australia.

Since Modi came to power in 2014, Hindu mobs have lynched scores of people — mainly Muslims and Dalit Hindus — suspected of illegally transporting cows or consuming beef.

Hindu far-right groups have also targeted Muslims over "love jihad", the conspiracy theory that Muslims are luring Hindu women with the aim of conversion and eventually national domination.

Muslims were also accused of spreading Covid-19. In recent years, Hindu mobs have targeted Muslims praying on Fridays in northern India.

BJP recently banned wearing the hijab in classrooms in Karnataka state. Hardline Hindu groups later demanded such restrictions in more Indian states. Muslim mutton sellers and fruit vendors have also become the target of the far-right Hindu groups. 

During a Hindu festival earlier this month, Hindu mobs pelted stones on mosques in several areas while DJs played loud music outside the mosques as worshippers prayed. 

Hindu monks known for their incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric have been calling for Rohingya-type ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims. 

READ MORE: Hindu nationalism will ultimately harm all of India

Source: AFP