India says it rejects "deeply biased" US religious freedom report

FILE PHOTO: A boy fills water in a container using a hand pump on a hot summer day during a heatwave in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - New Delhi on Friday rejected the U.S. State Department's 2023 religious freedom report on India, calling it "deeply biased" and one that does not understand the South Asian nation's social fabric.

The report, released on Wednesday, noted violent attacks on minority groups, especially Muslims and Christians, including killings, assaults and vandalism of houses of worship.

Criticism of India by the U.S. is usually restrained due to close economic ties and New Delhi's importance for Washington in countering China, political analysts say.

"As in the past, the report is deeply biased, lacks understanding of India's social fabric and is visibly driven by vote bank considerations and a prescriptive outlook. We, therefore, reject it," the Indian government said on Friday.

India said the report challenged the integrity of some decisions made by the country's judiciary and incidents were handpicked to form a pre-conceived narrative.

Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

The U.S. report listed dozens of incidents, including violence in the northeastern state of Manipur that started in May 2023 and a fatal shooting of a security official and three Muslims on a train near Mumbai.

It also cited examples of attacks against Muslims based on allegations that Muslim men were participating in the slaughter of cows or beef trading.

India also said that it had officially taken up cases of hate crimes and racial attacks against its citizens and other minorities in U.S.

"However, such dialogues should not become a licence for foreign interference in other polities," the government statement said.

(Reporting by Tanvi Mehta; Editing by Alison Williams)