India muslim Akhlaq
India muslim AkhlaqReuters

A group of 34 members of the United States Congress has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern over growing violence against religious minorities in India. They have urged the NDA government to ensure religious minorities' fundamental rights are protected, and the "perpetrators of violence" are punished.

The "nearly countrywide beef ban" has increased tensions and encouraged vigilante violence against the Muslim community in India, the letter, released by Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, read. They stressed on the "treatment" of Christians and Sikhs, as well, and urged the Central government to "take steps to address the activities of groups such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)".

"We write to reiterate our strong support for the partnership that exists today between India and the US. This partnership encourages us to relay our grave concerns about the increasing intolerance and violence members of India's religious minority communities experience," the lawmakers said.

The letter cited to a few incidents that occurred in the last few months to raise their concerns, and urged Modi to act upon his Feb. 2014 statement, that the NDA government would "ensure that there is complete freedom of faith...and not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority to incident hatred against others."

"On June 17, 2014, more than 50 village councils in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh adopted a resolution banning all 'non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers, and speeches' in their communities. The Christian minority community has been dramatically affected," the letter read.

"The ban effectively has criminalised the practice of Christianity for an estimated 300 Christian families in the region one day after a mob, which included members of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, seriously injured six Christians in the village of Sirciguda. Since the ban was implemented, Christians in the Bastar district reportedly have been subjected to physical assault, denial of government services, extortion, threats of forced expulsion, denial of access to food and water, and pressure to convert to Hinduism," said the letter.

The lawmakers noted two incidents of mob lynching; one in Manipur, in which one Mohammed Hasmat Ali was killed in November 2015 for allegedly stealing a cow, and another in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri, where Mohammad Akhlaq was killed by a mob for eating beef at home, to raise the issue of violence against Muslims.

"Sikh community members reportedly are harassed and pressured to reject religious practices and beliefs distinct to Sikhism. On October 14, security forces killed two Sikhs and injured scores of others in Punjab who were protesting peacefully against the desecration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib," the letter read.

"We urge you to turn these words into action by publicly condemning the ban on non-Hindu faiths in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh, and the violent assaults and other forms of harassment against religious minorities throughout India," it added.

The letter was signed by US House of Representatives and Senators, including Joseph Pits, Roy Blunt, Amy Klobuchar, Keith Ellison, James Lankford, Brad Wenstrup, Jim Costa, Tim Scot, Ben Sasse, John Boozman and Ted Poe.