Hate crimes and incitement to violence directed at religious minority communities remained a prevalent threat in 2018. As one example of the communal violence towards Muslims, in April 2018, during an annual Hindu festival in West Bengal, Hindutva extremists taunted Muslims and used anti-Muslim rhetoric. At least four people died during the ensuing communal clashes.
The police reportedly opened investigations into possible links to members of the BJP, although the case remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In addition, Christians have reported threats to their safety over the past year, as well as increased discrimination and unfair treatment directly related to their religious identity.
For example, various research groups affiliated with Christian churches found an increase in hate speech and hate crimes against Christians across the country, especially in northeastern states, where the Christian community has grown in recent decades. Throughout August and September 2018, authorities arrested several Christian pastors in Uttar Pradesh, some during church services and prayer meetings, while mobs attacked and threatened others.
Some of the pastors arrested were accused of alleged conversions. In one set of simultaneous attacks in October 2018, Hindutva extremists issued threats against four churches in the state of Tamil Nadu. Church worshipers were subject to public hate speech, attacks on their church structures, and threats issued to the church’s leadership. In December 2018, a mob attacked a small community church in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district, leaving many injured just before Christmas.
Based on these concerns, in 2019 USCIRF again places India on its Tier 2 for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). While the Indian government repeatedly has denied USCIRF access to India, the Commission welcomes the opportunity to openly and candidly engage with the government—including the chance for a USCIRF delegation to visit India—to discuss shared values and interests, including international standards of freedom of religion or belief and related human rights.