Washington: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an organisation India has strongly criticised in the past, has again raised ‘concerns’ over religious freedoms, citing the alleged rise in ‘hate speech’, demolitions and anti-conversion laws.

The report annually surveys religious freedoms around the world and aims to provide a “fact-based, comprehensive view of the state of religious freedom” in nearly 200 countries and territories.

The findings come a few weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his third term in office and India and the United States agreed to strengthen cooperation in high technology areas during a visit by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to New Delhi.

“In India, we see a concerning increase in anti-conversion laws, hate speech, demolitions of homes and places of worship for members of minority faith communities,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters at an event in Washington on Monday.

The US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Rashad Hussain also expressed concerns about the situation in India.

“In India, Christian communities reported that local police aided mobs that disrupted worship services over accusations of conversion activities, or stood by while mobs attacked them and then arrested the victims on conversion charges,” he said.

Earlier in May, India rejected a similar report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of “reinforcing discriminatory nationalist policies” and termed the organisation “biased” with “political agenda.”

“The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is known as a biased organization with a political agenda. They continue to publish their propaganda on India masquerading as part of an annual report,” MEA official spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said at a press briefing.

“We really have no expectation that USCIRF will even seek to understand India’s diverse, pluralistic and democratic ethos. Their efforts to interfere in the largest electoral exercise of the world will never succeed,” he added.

The USCIRF had then alleged that the Indian government “failed to address” communal violence disproportionately affecting Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Jews, and Adivasis (indigenous peoples) in 2023.

Among its key findings, the report calls out several countries including India, China, Russia, and Iran for violations of explicitly targeting members from certain faith communities.

A detailed section of the report also mentioned the alleged “targeted attacks against religious minorities in India.” The report expresses several concerns over India’s religious freedom. It claims religious conversion is “legally prohibited” in multiple states, religious minorities are “attacked on a regular basis”, and alleges that Muslims face systemic discrimination.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also noted that in the United States, hate crimes against both Muslims and Jews “have gone up dramatically.”

The US also raised concerns about Pakistan, where Blinken condemned blasphemy laws that “help foster a climate of intolerance and hatred that can lead to vigilantism and mob violence.”

Secretary Blinken also mentioned the imprisonment and exile of Muslim Uyghurs in China, as well as the repression of Tibetan Buddhists, Christians and Falun Gong practitioners.

(With Agency Inputs)