WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (APP): Hindu nationalists in India threatened and assaulted Muslims and Christians because of their religious beliefs during 2015, according to a report released by the US Statement Department on Wednesday.
The report entitled International Religious Freedom Report for 2015 said that there were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, coerced religious conversions, actions restricting the right of individuals to change religious beliefs, discrimination, and vandalism in the country.
“Hindu nationalists threatened and assaulted Muslims and Christians and destroyed their property because of their beliefs and in disputes over the location of churches and mosques,” the report said. Targets of killings included an intellectual advocating secular “rationalism”.
According to the report, numerous senior U.S. government visitors underscored the importance of religious freedom throughout the year, including President Obama during his January visit to Delhi.
The U.S. embassy in India and Consulate representatives discussed reports of religious persecution and coerced religious conversions, social media-based religious intolerance, and religiously motivated attacks, as well as the U.S. response to these concerns, with these officials and leaders.
According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, a Christian advocacy organization, there were 177 incidents of violence, harassment, or discrimination across India targeting Christians.
“Muslims were also targeted based on land disputes, their traditional livelihoods selling beef or buffalo products, and social interactions with Hindus. Several well-known authors, filmmakers, and other civil society members returned national and state-sponsored awards to protest what they said was the growing religious and cultural intolerance in the country.”
The report detailed incidents of violence against Sikh, Christians and Muslim minorities mainly by Hindu nationalists.
Hundreds of legal cases related to the burning of a train and subsequent violence in Godhra, Gujarat in 2002, which resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand Muslims and Hindus, remained pending, the report said.
Religious minorities and Dalits described the passage of the Maharashtra law banning cow slaughter and beef distribution and consumption as a state government initiative disproportionately affecting Muslims, who have traditionally dominated the beef and buffalo meat trade.
After the September 28 Hindu mob killing of an individual accused of cow slaughter in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, religious groups reported official hate speech against Muslims increased. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar remarked, “Muslims can stay in India, but they will have to give up eating beef.”
After the All India Muslim Personal Law Board objected to adoption of the Surya Namaskaar sun salutation yoga posture in schools and colleges, Sadhvi Prachi, another leader of the VHP, advised Muslims to “connect themselves with the traditions of India, culture of India … there is no need for any objection. If they are objecting then they should go to Pakistan. People who are objecting to [yoga] have no right to reside in India”.
In January Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP Member of Parliament, said Hindu women should have at least four babies to “protect the Hindu religion.
Hundreds of legal cases related to the burning of a train and subsequent violence in Godhra, Gujarat in 2002, which resulted in the deaths of more than a thousand Muslims and Hindus, remained pending.
There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, coerced religious conversions, riots, and actions restricting the right of individuals to change religious beliefs.
On August 30, unknown assailants shot and killed writer and former Vice Chancellor of the Kannada University M. M. Kalburgi. Both Hindustan Times and First Post news sources speculated he was killed for his anti-Hindu views and described Kalburgi as a “rationalist” who had spoken against what he called the Hindu practice of “idol worship.
” The police arrested three members of Hindu nationalist organizations in connection with the killing.
In January more than 5,000 people attacked the majority Muslim village of Azizpur, Bihar after a young Hindu man was abducted and killed. According to press reports, the attackers set approximately 25 houses on fire, killing four Muslims.
On September 28, in Bisara village near Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, two Hindu boys used the local temple’s public announcement system to say that a Muslim family had slaughtered a cow and eaten it. A Hindu group carrying sticks, swords, and pistols attacked Mohammad Akhlaq and his son, killing Akhlaq and seriously injuring the son. Police later confirmed that meat in Akhlaq’s refrigerator was mutton, not beef.
On October 9, a crowd attacked Zahid Ahmad, a Muslim, with a gasoline bomb and set his truck on fire in the Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir. Ahmad suffered burns on more than 60 percent of his body and died on October 18 at a Delhi hospital. The attack followed rumors that three cows had been killed in the area.
On May 25, a crowd attacked members of the Muslim community and set 20 of their houses on fire in Atali village in the Ballabhgarh district of Haryana. Approximately 400 Muslims took shelter in the Ballabhgarh police station compound. The media reported the cause of the confrontation was a 30-year dispute over a local mosque, which Hindus said stood on village land, while Muslims said it was on Muslim endowment property.
On October 10, rumors of a cow being slaughtered triggered violence in Nagaria village of Mainpuri district in Uttar Pradesh. Protesters targeted police vehicles and set shops on fire, leaving seven policemen injured. Police arrested 21 people. A postmortem report on the cow established it had died of natural causes.