Anti-Muslim violence breaks out across India . . .
Communal clashes broke out across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, and West Bengal on Sunday during the Hindu festival of Ram Navami, leaving at least one dead and dozens injured. As Hindus celebrated one of the religion’s chief deities, Ram, some played provocative songs targeting Muslims and other minorities and raised hate slogans, leading community members to hurl stones at each other. Notably, “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) is a rallying cry for right-wing Hindu nationalists and is embraced by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. At least 10 houses and a mosque were set on fire by Hindu mobs in the district of Khargone in Madhya Pradesh. The Khargone administration also bulldozed at least 16 houses and 29 shops belonging to Muslims accused of throwing stones the same day. In Gujarat, police fired tear gas at mobs as shops and vehicles were set on fire. Canadian NDP leader Jagmeet Singh expressed concern and urged “the Modi govt [to] stop stoking anti-Muslim sentiment.”
U.S. State Department flags human rights abuses . . .
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of State released its annual 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, noting in its chapter on India that Muslims are vulnerable to discrimination and communal violence. The reportalso mentions discrimination against other minorities, such as systemic racial violence against Dalits, arbitrary arrests and detentions, extra-judicial killings, curbs on free speech and harassment of journalists, and a “lack of accountability for official misconduct [that has] persisted at all levels of government.” The timing of the report’s release not only coincides with last weekend’s violence but also with the ongoing ‘2+2 Dialogue’ between Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and their U.S. counterparts, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin in Washington, preceded by Modi and Biden’s virtual meeting on Monday.
India responds . . .
Just hours after the report was released, while still in D.C, India’s Foreign Minister Jaishankar provided a sharp rebuttal to the criticism, citing India’s own concerns about human rights in the United States. "People are entitled to have views about us. We also are entitled to have views about their lobbies and vote banks . . . [and] other people’s human rights,” he pushed back. At the same time, he attempted to paint a positive broader picture of U.S.-India relations, indicative of a need for continued Quad co-operation in light of mutual security interests in the Indo-Pacific.