US body for religious freedom concerned over `intolerence' in India

A US spokesperson on `International Religious Freedom', Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein on Wednesday expressed concern over the Indian government's lax reaction to acts of intolerance in the country, especially the instances of violence against cow slaughter and the consumption of ''beef''.

He said the US 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,'' the Rabbi 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.

Saperstein said, his organisation will ''continue to be supportive of those efforts where he (Modi) is acting in accordance with the international obligations of India in these regards.''

Saperstein also quoted 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.

The Rabbi, however, avoided references to the United States, which is hard pressed to rein in rising religious intolerance in that country where Republican Presidential candidate Donad Trumph is whipping up passions against religious and racial minorities, has expressed serious concern over ''rising intolerence and violence'' in India.

The US state department spokesperson John Kirby had earlier said that the US stood in support of exercising of freedom of religion and expression and in confronting all forms of intolerance in India.

The US official was responding to questions on reports of increasing incidents of violence over beef in India. Earlier this week, two Muslim women in Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur were thrashed by cow protection groups on the suspicion of carrying beef.

Kirby reportedly said the US looked forward to continuing to work with India to realise their tolerant and inclusive vision, which was in the interests of both India and the US.

This had then invited strong criticism from the Janata Dal (United), which on Sunday said the US should first rein in Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has been an exponent of intolerance, before 'lecturing' India.

"Bullets are being fired in nightclubs there. If they are so worried about intolerance then why don't they rein in Donald Trump, he is the most intolerant person. Leave the intolerance in India on our authorities," ANI quoted JD (U) spokesperson Ajay Alok as saying.