Indian government says it is not its job to track attacks on minorities

·3-min read

The Indian government has said it has no data regarding attacks on minority communities in the country and that keeping track of such matters is the job of individual states.

Asked in the upper house of India’s parliament (the Rajya Sabha) whether such attacks have increased in recent years, the federal minister for minority affairs Smriti Irani said that public order and police were state subjects in accordance with the country’s constitution.

“The responsibility of maintaining law and order, registration and prosecution of crimes against all citizens including minorities, rests with the respective state governments,” Ms Irani wrote. “As such, specific data regarding attacks against individual community is not maintained centrally.”

The minister’s response comes amid growing concerns both domestically and internationally about minority rights under prime minister Narendra Modi’s government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP party.

According to India’s last census in 2011, Hindus comprise 79.8 per cent of the population, while Muslims make up the largest minority group at 14.2 per cent.

Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (0.7%) and Jains (0.4%) are some of the other minority groups in the country.

Ms Irani’s answer was in response to a question by Abdul Wahab, an MP from the Indian Union Muslim League party.

Mr Wahab had asked whether attacks against minority communities have increased in the recent past and what measures the federal government has taken to ensure the protection of minorities.

Ms Irani said the federal government monitors internal security and law and order and issues “appropriate advisories from time to time to maintain peace, public tranquility and communal harmony”.

“Central Armed Police Forces are deployed to aid and assist state governments, on their request, to maintain law and order and public tranquility,” she added.

The minister said that the federal home ministry that looks at internal security has issued communal harmony guidelines and laid down standard operating procedures to deal with situations arising out of any violence. “These guidelines are aimed to maintain due vigilance, careful planning and preparatory measures to prevent and pre-empt communal violence.”

Though the federal government said it has no data on the issue, the past few months have been a concerning time for minorities in India, with a recent spate of communal violence around Hindu religious festivals, followed by state-sponsored demolitions of mostly Muslim properties.

Recently, the government also found itself at the centre of an international diplomatic row with a number of Muslim-majority nations, after derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad were made on live TV by a then-national spokesperson for the BJP, Nupur Sharma. She has since been suspended.

Last month, the US State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom had said that religious minorities in India faced intimidation throughout 2021. Mr Modi’s government called the report “biased” and said it was an example of “vote bank politics”, while drawing attention to the US’s own “issues of concern” including hate crimes and gun violence.

A recent report titled “Christians under attack in India” showed that more than 300 attacks on Christians were documented from 21 Indian states in the first nine months of 2021.

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