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India on Thursday rejected criticism from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that religious minorities in the country continued to face vigilantism and constitutional challenges. At the weekly briefing, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the USCIRF had no locus standi to assess religious freedom in India.

“We had rejected the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Annual Reports in the past as well. We have serious doubts on their credibility,” Mr. Swarup said.

Vigilante violence

In the report titled “Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India” made available online, the USCIRF cited the killing of Mohammed Akhlaq in September 2015 over beef eating, and said such violence, often inflicted by Hindu right-wing groups, had curtailed religious freedom for minority groups in India. It further criticised the Indian Constitution for giving favourable treatment to the majority Hindu community and curtailing the unique identity of the minority groups.

“Radical right-wing Hindu groups have started their own gangs, known as Gau Raksha Dal (Cow Protection Front), across India. They … attack people transporting cattle or possessing, consuming, or selling beef,” the report said. Questioning the authority of the report, the Ministry said the government did not see the locus standi of the USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.