US Religious Freedom Report Highlights Cow Vigilantism

The targeting of persons, mostly Muslims, suspected of bovine trafficking or having beef in India by lynch mobs masquerading as gau rakshaks has been highlighted in the United States’ International Religious Freedom Report (IRFR) for 2016 released on Tuesday by secretary of state Rex Tillerson.

Cow Vigilantism

“There was an increase (during 2016) in violent incidents by cow protection groups against mostly Muslim victims, including killings, mob violence, assaults, and intimidation,” the report said.

“Members of civil society expressed concerns that, under the BJP government, religious minority communities felt vulnerable due to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against non-Hindu individuals and places of worship,” the report added.

While listing the various instances of attacks by cow vigilantes on people suspected of having or eating beef, the report also noted that the Bombay High Court decriminalised the possession of beef brought from outside Maharashtra saying “it violated a citizen’s right to possess and consume food of his or her choice.”

Perhaps for the first time, the IRFR also cites instances of religious intolerance on the part of the religious minorities in India.

Instances were cited of attacks on people suspected of making what were claimed to be derogatory remarks against Islam, including the involvement of police in one incident in Madhya Pradesh, the denial of burial rights by Christian and Muslim institutions to inter-religious couples and the arrest of a Catholic priest in Maharashtra on complaints that he denigrated Islam and prevented a teacher trainee from wearing a burqa.

“There were reports of religiously motivated killings, assaults, riots, discrimination, vandalism, and actions restricting the right of individuals to practice their religious beliefs and proselytize,” the report said. It also referred to the report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) according to which there were 751 conflicts between religious communities, which resulted in 97 deaths and 2,264 injuries in 2015.”

On the positive side, the report took note of the fact that Jews had been accorded minority status in Maharashtra entitling them for certain government schemes aimed at minorities.
The IRFR quoted religious minority communities as stating that, “while the national government sometimes spoke out against incidents of violence, local political leaders often did not, which left victims and minority religious communities feeling vulnerable”.



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