External Affairs

Government’s ‘Slow’ Reaction to Rising Cow Vigilantism Concerns US

File picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama in the White House in June. Credit : PTI

File picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama in the White House in June. Credit : PTI

Washington: The US raised concerns on Wednesday over instances where India has been “slow” in dealing with incidents of religious violence and cow vigilantism.

“We have been clear in our engagement with India about our concerns about those times when the government has been slow to react when violence has taken place, and some of those controversies over the cows — are an example of that,” US ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein, told reporters at a news conference.

In response to a question concerning religious freedom in India, Saperstein said,“There have been other times where [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi has spoken out and has spoken out very forcefully about the need to protect religious freedom for all and security for all,” This was soon after he released  the annual report on International Religious Freedom in 2015.

Saperstein further added that the US has been “clear” about its willingness to be supportive in addressing challenges involving religious freedom, and that it has urged the government to be more assertive whenever it was “slow to react” to religious violence.

“He [Modi] has promised to ensure that ‘everyone has the’ — I’m quoting him now — ‘the undeniable right to retain or adopt religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influences’, responding to some of the attacks on Christians because they are seen as proselytising and encouraging others to convert,” he said.

Saperstein reiterated that the US has been clear and consistent in its message concerning issues like religious freedom, which contribute to the stability of the country, and clarified that the US will continue to be supportive of efforts towards the same. He also referred to US President Barack Obama’s visit to India last year, saying, “President Obama travelled to India. He gave a major public speech in which he was very clear about the need for religious freedom in India that could be exercised without people being subject to violence, urging the government to ensure that all people were able to safely live out their religious lives”.

Saperstein’s remarks come at a time when incidents of intolerance and cow vigilantism have grown increasingly frequent, with several instances of attacks on Dalits and Muslims.

Soon after Modi denounced cow vigilantes, the home ministry instructed the states to not tolerate incidents where people take the law into their own hands in the name of the cow, last evening. Modi had asked that the states severely punish such offenders.

(With PTI inputs)