New Delhi: A report by a US government commission - the Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has strongly criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government for the 'ghar wapsi' campaign on religious conversions, and derogatory statements about minorities by various leaders of his party. The report suggests the Indian government "publicly rebuke government officials and religious leaders that make derogatory statements about religious communities."
"It appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its constitution and its society. We take no cognizance of this report," said a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.
In its annual report for 2015 released today, USCIRF says "Incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence reportedly have increased for three consecutive years," and that, "Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian, and Sikh communities, attributed the initial increase to religiously-divisive campaigning in advance of the country's 2014 general election."
The report says that Mr Modi's statement in mid-February in support of religious freedom was a "positive development".
The USCIRF describes itself as an "independent, bipartisan US federal government commission" which "uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress."
Its report says, "Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)."
Based on these concerns, USCIRF again places India on its Tier 2 list of countries, where it has been since 2009.
In mid-February 2015, at an event organized by Christian leaders in Delhi, Prime Minister Modi vowed to protect all religious groups and ensure "complete freedom of faith." His comments came after a series of attacks on churches and other Christian buildings, many of them in Delhi. In France last month, he reiterated his government's commitment to ensuring religious equality.