Paramilitary forces keep vigil outside the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in New Delhi on April 1, 2020, day eight of the first 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed in India.
India scored the worst — 9.4 out of 10 — in the Social Hostilities Index, according to Pew Research Center's 13th annual study of restrictions on religion around the world in 2020. Among the 198 countries analysed by the Washington DC-based think tank, India fared among the worst in religious hostilities during the pandemic.
The study analysed data from a time when lockdowns and restrictions affected religious groups and found that a quarter of the countries it studied used physical means on "worship services and other religious gatherings" to impose these restrictions. This included arrests and jail time.
The report said, "In more than a third of the 198 countries and territories analyzed, religious groups were subjected to various types of force or blame related to the coronavirus outbreak in 2020. " India was one among them.
The Pew Research Center's study on restrictions on religion around the world is published every year. This year it included a section on how the pandemic affected religious groups around the world.
The levels of restrictions in 198 countries and self-governing territories were rated using two 10-point indexes: the Government Restrictions Index (GRI) and the Social Hostilities Index (SHI). The 198 countries included in the study, the Pew Research Center said, account for more than 99.5% of the world's population.
Here are the key findings of the study on Covid related religious hostilities in India:
India's social hostility score rose in 2020 because of CAA
Among the 198 countries studied, India fared the worst on the SHI, behind neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan and other counties such as Syria, Nigeria and Somalia. According to Pew Research Center data, India's SHI score has been in the 'very high' category since 2007.
While India's score in 2007 was 8.8, it increased to 9.6 in 2011 and 2012. The lowest SHI score for India between 2007 and 2020 was in 2014 at 7.9 and the highest in 2016 at 9.7.
The report said, "India's SHI score rose due in part to increased violence around protests of the Citizenship Amendment Act (a 2019 law that excludes Muslims from expedited citizenship offered to non-Muslim migrants)."
Detentions were the most common force used, including in India
The report found that detentions were the most common type of force used against religious groups to enforce Covid rules. The report found, "In 40 of the 46 countries where force was reported to have been used, governments arrested and held worshippers or religious figures for gatherings that violated public health measures, or for other actions by religious groups relating to the pandemic."
For India, the study cited the Tablighi Jamaat being blamed for the spread of Covid in New Delhi in April 2020. It pointed out that 900 peoples of the Islamic group and other foreign nations, most of whom were Muslim, were placed under quarantine and cases were registered against them. "Many of those detained were released or granted bail by July 2020," it said.
India had the highest overall restrictions among world's most populous countries
The study said that among the 25 most populous countries analysed, India had the highest overall restrictions, for both government restrictions and social hostilities, along with Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria.
India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt and Bangladesh saw the highest level of social hostilities." All these countries with the exception of Bangladesh had "very high" social hostilities in 2020, while Bangladesh fell into the "high" category on the Social Hostilities Index," the study said.
Meanwhile for government restrictions among the most populous group of countries, China, Russia, Iran, Indonesia and Egypt fared the highest.
In India religious minorities were blamed for Covid
The study found that India was among the 39 countries where "private individuals or organizations linked the spread of the coronavirus to religious groups in 2020" through hostile or inflammatory speech. The study said, "And in India, Islamophobic hashtags like #CoronaJihad circulated widely on social media, seeking to blame Muslims for the virus."
The Pew Research Center also found discrimination against Muslims in Cambodia and against Shiite Hazara Muslims by Sunni Sunni extremists in Pakistan.
While in India the discrimination was directed at Muslims, in 23 of the 39 countries the adverse comments were made against Jews.
Religious groups were attacked in India over Covid
India was one among four countries in the world were religious groups faced "physical violence or vandalism by private individuals or organizations" because of Covid. The other three countries are Argentina, Italy and the United States.
"In India, there were multiple reports of Muslims being attacked after being accused of spreading the coronavirus. In Argentina and Italy, properties were vandalized with antisemitic posters and graffiti that linked Jews to COVID-19. In Italy, for example, authorities found graffiti of a Star of David with the words "equal to virus." And in the U.S., a Mississippi church burned down in an arson attack about a month after its pastor sued the city over public health restrictions on large gatherings," the report said.
India among countries that saw Covid-related killings
The study found that three countries saw pandemic-related killings of minorities — India, Indonesia and Yemen. "In India, two Christians died after they were beaten in police custody for violating COVID-19 curfews in the state of Tamil Nadu," the report said.
Meanwhile, authorities in Indonesia killed six members of a banned organization called the Islamic Defenders Fund and in Yemen Houthi rebels killed dozens of "Ethiopian migrants, many of whom were Christians" using the pandemic as an excuse expel them.
Government restrictions on religion worst in China, 'high' in India
In the index for government restrictions on religion in 2020, India scored 5.8, which falls in the 'high' category. China scored the worst in this index with a 9.4. China was followed by Malaysia, Algeria and Iran. The points for this index are assigned in answers to 20 questions to determine to what extent governments influence religious beliefs or practices in a country.
India's score stood at 4.8 in 2007. The highest India scored on this index is 5.9 in 2018, whereas the lowest was 4.5 in 2014.
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