India has taken up instances of violence against minorities in neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, both bilaterally and at international forums and sought action to bring the perpetrators of such incidents to justice, the government informed Parliament on Thursday.
Responding to questions in Rajya Sabha, minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan said reports of violence and harassment of members of minority communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are a “matter of concern to the government” that are “raised with the respective countries at bilateral levels”.
“Upon occurrence of incidents of sporadic violence against minorities and their places of worship in Afghanistan and Bangladesh, these issues are raised formally as well as informally with the respective interlocutors,” he said in his reply to a question from MP Kirodi Lal Meena.
The governments of Afghanistan and Bangladesh have assured India that “they take all possible steps to protect their citizens, including religious minorities”, Muraleedharan said.
“In Pakistan, incidents of killing, persecution, intimidation, abduction, forced conversions, desecration and vandalisation of places of worship of minorities and attacks on their business establishments are regularly reported in the media. The issue of the continued mistreatment of minority communities in Pakistan is highlighted by India through bilateral diplomatic channels and at international fora, including at the United Nations,” he added.
Replying to a separate question, Muraleedharan said there have been reports of “atrocities and acts of vandalism of places of religious worship” belonging to minorities in Pakistan.
The government has raised such cases with the Pakistan government and called on it to “take steps to protect and promote the safety, security and well-being of its minority communities and their places of religious worship”. He added: “Pakistan has also been asked to take immediate measures to expeditiously bring the perpetrators of such despicable and heinous acts to justice.”
In his response to yet another question, Muraleedharan said Pakistan has acknowledged that 270 fishermen, who are Indian or believed to be Indian, are in the country’s jails.
Under the agreement on consular access signed 2008, lists of civilian prisoners and fishermen of each country held in jails of the other are exchanged on January 1 and July 1 every year.
As a result of the government’s efforts, a total of 2,100 Indian fishermen and 57 fishing boats have been repatriated from Pakistan since 2014, he said. The government attaches the highest priority to the welfare and security of Indian fishermen and all possible assistance, including legal aid, is provided to the fishermen for their early release and repatriation, he added.