Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called on the Indian government to halt ongoing anti-Muslim violence in Delhi, home of India’s capital.
Approximately 27 people have been killed and more than 200 were injured in a series of riots in northeastern Delhi that began on Sunday. The riots started over a new citizenship law which forbids Muslim immigrants from obtaining Indian citizenship. The BBC reported that Hindu mobs targeted unarmed people, and both Hindus and Muslims have been killed in the ensuing violence.
“The brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue. The Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of all its citizens,” said USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava in a statement released Wednesday.
Bhargava cited reports that police in Delhi have allowed riots to continue and said that the Indian government “is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.”
“These incidents are even more concerning in the context of efforts within India to target and potentially disenfranchise Muslims across the country, in clear violation of international human rights standards.”
About 14% of India’s population is Muslim. The country is approximately 80% Hindu.
Tony Perkins, chairman of the USCIRF, echoed Bhargava’s concerns, and said that the “reported attacks against Muslims, their homes and ships, and their houses of worship are greatly disturbing.”
Perkins said the Indian government was facing a test of the basic functions of responsible leadership.
“One of the essential duties of any responsible government is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith. We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence,” he said Wednesday.
President Donald Trump visited India this week. While in the country, he hosted a rally and met with the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Modi, the leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said in December, 2019, that the new citizenship bill was not anti-Muslim.
In the USCIRF’s 2019 Annual Report, India was listed as a “Tier 2” country, designating it as a country with at least some “systemic, ongoing, egregious standard” of religious-based discrimination that would merit a country being labeled a “country of particular concern.”
The commission’s report said India’s “history of religious freedom has come under attack in recent years with the growth of exclusionary extremist narratives—including, at times, the government’s allowance and encouragement of mob violence against religious minorities—that have facilitated an egregious and ongoing campaign of violence, intimidation, and harassment against non-Hindu and lower-caste Hindu minorities. Both public and private actors have engaged in this campaign.”
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