New Delhi: Nearly two weeks after India trashed a report by the US State Department alleging human rights abuse in ethnic violence-hit Manipur, a group of people from the Kuki tribes settled in the US held a "congressional briefing", and took swipes at India.

In the event organised by the North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA), which allegedly maintains ties with Canada-based Khalistani separatists, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commissioner David Curry alleged that violations of religious freedom in India has been growing unchecked.

Mr Curry, who is also the chief of the religious advocacy group Global Christian Relief, connected the alleged "atrocities on the Kuki minority Christians to the broader issues prevalent nationwide."

"Unfortunately, these instances in Manipur mark a broader, widespread pattern of deteriorating religious freedom conditions throughout India," Mr Curry alleged.

NAMTA in a statement on Monday said its Canada chapter head Lien Gangte criticised the "Indian government for failing to fulfil its constitutional obligations."

Mr Gangte was seen in August 2023 giving a speech at the same gurdwara in Canada's Surrey, whose chief and Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in June that year. In his address then, he had condemned what he called "attacks on minorities in India" and asked Canada for "all possible help".

North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA) Canada chief Lien Gangte in Surrey in August 2023

North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA) Canada chief Lien Gangte in Surrey in August 2023

Sources on Tuesday said NAMTA's handles of its US, Canada, and India chapters on the microblogging website X were blocked in India last year after intelligence agencies started monitoring NAMTA's activities and the group's alleged links with Khalistanis.

The development in August 2023 had alarmed intelligence agencies.

"The NAMTA members have been repeatedly defaming India and maligning the country's image on the world stage. They have become more aggressive, coincidentally, when the Lok Sabha elections are going on," a senior official in India said, requesting anonymity. "We have been monitoring them. Their activities are getting closer to groups that work to sabotage India's standing in the world," the official said.

India on April 25 had termed the US State Department report alleging "significant human rights abuses" in Manipur as "deeply biased" and reflecting "a poor understanding of the country".

"This report is deeply biased and reflects a very poor understanding of India. We attach no value to it and urge you also to do the same," the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had said.

The ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo tribes began over cataclysmic disagreements on sharing land, resources, affirmative action policies, and political representation, mainly with the 'general' category Meiteis seeking to be included under the Scheduled Tribes category. A top factor the state government says led to the crisis was its 'war on drugs' campaign.

"The slow but steady decline in opium cultivation due to the 'war on drugs' campaign would have been a kick in the gut of powerful drug cartels. The Kuki insurgents, too, have been demanding a separate land for a long time. It was a dangerous combination," a senior officer in the Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) had told NDTV on April 30, requesting anonymity.

"The idea of a separate administration did not just fall from a tree after May 2023. The idea was always there," the officer added.

(With Agency Inputs)