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Indian govt ‘slow’ in reacting to religious violence and cow vigilantism: US

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Washington: The US on Wednesday said it has been clear in conveying its concerns whenever the Indian government was “slow” in reacting to 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.

“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,” Saperstein said in response to a question on religious freedom in India after releasing the annual report on International Religious Freedom in 2015.

The US has been “clear” about its view of what is needed and its willingness to be supportive in confronting the challenges to religious freedom that need to be addressed there and when the government has been “slow to react”, urging them to be more assertive on that, Saperstein said.

“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.

The United States, Saperstein said, has been clear and consistent in its messages about the things that they think are most helpful to the stability of the region and the stability of the country.

“And we’ll continue to be supportive of those efforts where he is acting in accordance with the international obligations of India in these regards,” he said.

Saperstein also reiterated the remarks made by US President Barack Obama when he visited India last year.

“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,” he said.

Saperstein’s remarks come amid a slew of incidents of cow vigilantism in India.

India’s Home Ministry issued an advisory last evening asking all states not to tolerate anyone taking law into their hands in the name of protecting cow and take prompt action against such offenders.

The advisory came two days after Prime Minister Modi denounced cow vigilantes and asked the states to severely punish them.

PTI

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