DESPARDES — Indian police are searching for around a dozen people who tortured a Muslim man for hours, forcing him to shout Hindu slogans and capturing it on a video which has gone viral since the victim died.
A 10-minute video shows scores of men beating Tabrez Ansari in the latest suspected case of religious violence to stain India’s secular image.
The mob also forced Ansari to shout “Jai Shri Ram” — Hail Lord Ram — a slogan widely used by Hindu hardliners.
Ansari died in hospital on Saturday, four days after he was attacked, tied to a pole, then beaten and punched over accusations that he carried out a burglary in Jharkhand state.
News of the death emerged as the Indian government rejected a US State Department report that said religious intolerance and violence against minorities has spiked under the right-wing Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi, setting off a new spat ahead of a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The US religious freedom report said there had been growing numbers of attacks by groups claiming to protect cows — considered sacred by Hindus — on Muslims and low-caste Dalits since 2014 when Modi came to power.
The Indian foreign ministry rejected the report, saying there was no right “for a foreign entity/government to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”.
Pompeo arrives in New Delhi on Tuesday for a trip intended to strengthen ties. Pompeo wants to use his New Delhi trip to lay the ground for a Trump-Modi meeting at the G20 Summit in Osaka this month. It will be their first since Modi’s new landslide election win last month.
The US religious freedom report said Christians have also been targeted for proselytizing since Modi came to power in 2014.
Dozens of people have been killed by Hindu groups over the past five years over allegations that they had slaughtered cows or eaten beef.
Experts said the landslide election win in 2014 by Modi’s conservative Bharatiya Janata Party had emboldened Hindus hardliners.
The BJP won an even bigger majority in May leading to fears of more communal violence.
Critics have accused Modi government of turning a blind eye to vigilante attacks on minority Muslims in the name of cow protection.
Slaughtering cows is illegal in many Indian states and some require a licence to transport them across state borders.