Foreign governments do not have the right to criticise India’s vibrant democracy and dedication to rule of law, said the Ministry of External Affairs on June 23 after the U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom pointed out India’s failure to protect minority communities.
“We see no locus standi for a foreign government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
The report sets the backdrop of the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that begins on June 25. The Hindu reported earlier that the report was released by Mr. Pompeo himself and he referred to the issue of religious freedom as a “deeply personal” priority.
The State Department’s 2019 Report on International Freedom referred to multiple instances where the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre and various State governments of the Bharatiya Janata Party took steps that hurt the Muslim community.
The official spokesperson, however, maintained that India was proud of its “secular credentials”, saying, “it is widely acknowledged that India is a vibrant democracy where the Constitution provides protection of religious freedom, and where democratic governance and rule of law further promote and protect the fundamental rights.”
Protect minority rights
Apart from the murders and lynching by cow vigilante groups , the report pointed out that there were several attempts to undermine minority institutions and change names of cities that reminded of the pluralistic nature of India. In this regard, the report highlighted the change of the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj.
The MEA did not answer if the report and its observations about India’s failure to uphold and protect minority rights would feature in talks with Mr. Pompeo during his visits here between 25-27 June.
The report implicated the BJP and several of its leaders for making “inflammatory speeches against minority communities”. It made specific mention of the NRC in Assam and targeting of the Muslim community in the State.