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Shrinking space for minorities in India


June 19, 2017

The so-called largest democracy in the world shows little tolerance for minorities like Muslims, Christians,   Dalits and even Sikhs. Even people of Nagaland continue to suffer at the hands of extremist mindset. As   discrimination becomes more and more rife in the country, being minority in India has become a curse. 

A US report recently examined India’s constitution and national and state laws that discriminate against religious minorities and Dalits. Titled as “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious   Minorities in India”, the US government report revealed that in India, hate crimes against religious   minorities, their social boycotts and forced conversions had escalated dramatically since 2014. 

Sponsored by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a US federal government   agency, the authors asked the US government to put this issue of minorities at the centre of trade and  diplomatic interactions with India.

The independent bipartisan American body declared in the report:  "Under Congress Party and BJP-led governments, religious minority communities and Dalits, both have  faced discrimination and persecution due to a combination of overly broad or ill-defined laws, an   inefficient criminal justice system, and a lack of jurisprudential consistency.

"In particular, since 2014, hate crimes, social boycotts, assaults, and forced conversion have escalated  dramatically."

The report alleges that following the victory of BJP in May 2014 elections, concerns have been mounting  about the fate of religious minorities in India. "As feared by many faith communities across India, threats,  hate crimes, social boycotts, desecrations of places of worship, assaults, and forced conversions led by   radical Hindu nationalist movements have escalated dramatically under the BJP-led government," it said. 

"India faces serious challenges to both its pluralistic traditions and its religious minorities. Muslims,   Christians, Sikhs, and Jains generally are fearful of what the future portends. Moreover, Hindus classified  as Schedule Castes or Tribes, commonly referred to as Dalits, also are increasingly being attacked and  harassed," the report said. 

USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese said in the report: “India is a religiously diverse and democratic society  with a constitution that provides legal equality for its citizens irrespective of their religion and prohibits  religion-based discrimination. However, the reality is far different. In fact, India’s pluralistic tradition faces  serious challenges … (and) during the past few years, religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious  freedom violations have increased in some areas of India.”

"During the past few years, religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious freedom violations have increased in some areas of India. To reverse this negative trajectory, the Indian and state governments must align their laws with both the country's constitutional commitments and international human rights standards," Reese said.

The study said that 80 per cent of India’s population are Hindus, 172.2 million Muslims, 27.8 million  Christians, 20.8 million Sikhs, and 4.5 million Jains. Of the 29 states in India, seven i.e. Gujarat, Arunachal  Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh have adopted anti- conversion laws that encourage inequitable practices against minorities. The report stated that “both by  their design and implementation”, anti-conversion laws “infringe upon the individual’s right to convert,  favour Hinduism over minority religions, and represent a significant challenge to Indian secularism”.

The report further reveals that there are constitutional provisions and state and national laws in India that  do not comply with international standards of freedom of religion or belief, including Article 18 of the UN  Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

While this is not the first and the last report of its kind exposing the real face of India before the world, it  certainly embarrasses the Modi Sarkar and shows the grotesque distortion of Indian secularism and  constitution in recent times.    


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