Vigilante Violence on Rise in India says US Report

Minority Communities Feel Vulnerable as Religiously Targeted Violence Increase in India, the report stated.


A US State Department report has registered a spike in the violent incidents by cow protection groups in India in 2016. The incidents include  killings, mob violence, assaults and intimidation and the target of these were mostly Muslims, the report released on Tuesday says.

The International Religious Freedom Report for 2016 (IRFR) released by the US State Department is the first such report to come out under the Trump administration. It emphasized on the increase in attacks by Hindu nationalist groups against religious minorities, who were accused of bovine trafficking or eating beef, reported PTI.

Cow Vigilantism on a Rise

In 2015, cow vigilantism gained spotlight in India, after a 60-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Indian state of Uttar Pradesh for ‘storing’ and ‘consuming’ beef. Forensic reports later proved that the meat was mutton not beef.

This is just the one of many incidents that followed. The nationwide ‘anti-beef movement’ sparked after a beef ban was introduced by the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party. This saw an emergence of cow-vigilantes—group of people who attacked anybody ‘suspected’ of consuming, trading or indulging in beef business. Cow is considered to be ‘holy’ to Hindus so slaughtering of the animal is argued to be a ‘sin’ by these groups.

Out of the 29 Indian states, 24 have ‘imposed full to partial restrictions and penalties on the slaughter of bovines,’ The Hindu reported.

Authorities didn’t take proper action

The report release by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson states that the authorities didn’t take much action against cow vigilantism. “Authorities frequently did not prosecute members of vigilante “cow protection” groups who attacked alleged smugglers, consumers, or traders of beef, usually Muslims, despite an increase in attacks compared to previous years,” the report stated.

“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 IRFR said.

Religiously-motivated Violence

The report also mentioned attacks on people based on the suspicion that they were making remarks against Islam, the denial of burial rights by Christian and Muslim institutions and the arrest of a Catholic priest in Maharashtra based on the complaints that he prevented a teacher trainee from wearing a burqa, IANS reported.

More than 300 incidents of abuse targeting Christians were reported in 2016 compared to 177 in 2015. Incidents included attacks on churches, schools, and private property and assault on missionaries on the issue of ‘forced conversions’ of non-Hindus.

Issue of Triple Talaq

IRFR also notes that while Supreme Court of India is looking into a case which will decide if the practice of ‘triple talaq’ or instantaneous divorce is in line with fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, the federal government filed a brief in support of the challenge.

“During his speech at Mahoba, Uttar Pradesh on October 24, Prime Minister Modi stated there should be no discrimination against women on the basis of religion and the government had the responsibility to protect Muslim women’s constitutional rights,” the report said.

Religious Minorities Feel UnSafe?

The violent incidents have left the religious minority groups feeling unsafe in their own country, the report said. “Religious minority communities say 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,” states the report.

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