U.S. criticizes India on treatment of religious minorities
A U.S. commission is criticizing India for its treatment of religious minorities and has added it to a “watch list,” annoying the South Asian country.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (there are probably other commissions around town that people never knew existed) placed India on its “watch list” because of the “disturbing increase in communal violence against religious minorities” and the inadequate response by the Indian government to protect their rights.
Countries on the watch list require “close monitoring,” and India is now in the company of Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, the Russian Federation, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.
The commission, whose members are chosen by the president and the leadership of both parties in Congress, specifically pointed to attacks against Christians and church burnings in Orissa last year after the killing of Swami Saraswati and attacks against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
“In both Orissa and Gujarat, court convictions have been infrequent, perpetrators rarely brought to justice and thousands of people remain displaced,” the commission said.
“It is extremely disappointing that India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege,” said Leonard Leo, chair of the commission.
The Indian government was not pleased.
“India, a country of 1.1 billion people, is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society,” the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion and equality of opportunity to all its citizens who live and work together in peace and harmony. Aberrations, if any, are dealt with promptly within our legal framework, under the watchful eye of an independent judiciary and a vigilant media.”
“The reported move referred to in the news reports is regrettable,” it said.
Photo credit: Reuters/stringer (Catholic nuns at prayer meeting against clashes in Orissa)