U.S. criticizes India on treatment of religious minorities

August 13, 2009

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. INDIA-RELIGION/CLASH

“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.

For more Reuters political meeting, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/stringer (Catholic nuns at prayer meeting against clashes in Orissa)


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Does US has moral rigth to talk about religious freedom?
US needs to do more to close camps like Guantánamo Bay and apolozize to Muslims.

Practise before preaching.

Posted by Vishal | Report as abusive

Vishal – apologize to muslims? Really, how about muslims apoliging for blowing themselves up, the world trade center, a navy ship, etc. Get a grip on reality Vishal!!!

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

What a bunch of BS! What about the hue and cry raised about Barak Obama’s religion on american media? US doesn’t deserve to take the moral high ground here. Religious freedom in India is a lot better than in US. In fact reverse discrimination in India on the majority by giving out unjustified freebies(from taxpayer’s money) to the minorities.

Posted by AJ | Report as abusive

No country has a moral right to talk about India’s secularism and religious freedom. There are classic examples of US being biased about its own minority and Guantanamo Bay is just one of it. Just because US is worlds most richest country that does not justify such loose comments and grading of a country like India.

This is height of Hypocrisy. India doesnt need a certificate from US to prove itself secular.

Posted by Girish – India | Report as abusive

Recently Former President of India Dr.Abdul Kalam was subjected to a humiliating body search by the US based Continental Airlines when he was about to board an aircraft to the US. This happened in Indian soil in violation of the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry’s rules. The reason given by the airlines was that it was acting according to the regulation laid down by the US Federal Aviation Agency. The FAA’s guidelines require airlines flying to the US to rigorously check Muslim passengers more than others, regardless of their stature. This kind of religious profiling happens only in the US. Here we have the US talking about religious rights in India. The Indian constitution treats all religions and even atheists equally. For example the Indian Rupee has the sentence ‘Sathyameva Jayathe’ meaning ‘Truth Always Triumphs’ whereas the US dollar has the sentence ‘In God We Trust’, obviously not taking into consideration the sentiments of the large minority in the US that does not believe in any God. If the US really does believe in equality it must remove that sentence from its currency and other national symbols and then preach the world. Do they have the guts to do it?

Posted by Shaan | Report as abusive

vishal: a bloated, chain-smoking, pickled physician may still tell his patient to diet, exercise, eschew tobacco, and use alcohol moderately; that the physician should follow his own advise is both true and irrelevant. vis-a-vis minority religious rights, india’s failures appear to be matters of governance rather than policy, but dead is dead irrespective of why. as for america apoligising to muslims, i point out to you that in america a) muslims may appear in courts and testify against christians; b)pay no jizya; c) are subject to nothing like dhimma; e) may and do build mosques and schools as freely as members of any other religious groups; f) need not live in fear of mob violence. whilst we are not perfect, once the dar al islam can match our record in treating religious minorities as human beings, mayhap i will take your criticism seriously.

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

Compared to size of India’s diversity, No other country has right to ask question about its freedom of religion. we have vibrant media which can take care to bring it to light if any thing happens. We have laws which will do its duty. I don’t think any third country need to advice in this aspect. I Think US Need to learn from India a lot in this aspect.

Posted by MJ | Report as abusive

India is not above criticisms as some brazen zealots on this forum are trotting out. International organizations are entitled to point out about the plight of minorities in every single country, India included. The US treats religious and ethnic minorities much better than most countries. As a foreign student in India (from Africa), I have seen first hand a lot of religious freedom in India. However, bigots and communalists are also galore and seem to get away with murder. Here in the US, there is equally great religious freedom. But fanatics and bigots are not let off scot free for their misdeeds and crime. The police and judicial system do not seem lax as in India. The Indians (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs) are not persecuted or racially profiled because of their faith. If so, it is mostly due to racism not because of religious reasons. Compare this with the inhuman caste system in India. Minorities are free to practise their creeds without any fear or favour. In every major city or town there are hundreds of temples, mosques, synagogues, gurdhwaras mushrooming in no time. No one has to incur some religious toll or follow the dictates of any religious ministry . So let the ignorant and bigots examine their woeful ignorance or fanaticism before taking to task the so-called Western infidels or barbarians.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

What a bluff.Americans have no moral right on lecturing India.
Go put your house in order and stop sending bible salesman to India.

Posted by Ramchand Pakistani | Report as abusive


Not sure if you do know, in India,

a) muslims may appear in courts and testify against anyone and not just christians; b)pay no jizya; c) are subject to nothing like dhimma; e) may and do build mosques and schools as freely as members of any other religious groups; f) need not live in fear of mob violence.Also, mob and terror knows no religion. It is just plain evil, nothing else.

There has been some violence related to religion, but that was the work of few anti social elements and should not reflect on the whole indian society per se.

You might want to look at the response given to general Musharraf by an indian.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP9JCusfj e0

This video is in hindi, but in essence it says,we as Indians, are very much capable of handling our own civil society and other countries should not try and play religion as a cheap political trick.

Posted by ab | Report as abusive

It is about time that someone notice the violence against miniorites by the Indian “RSS Group” and hate groups. I noticed that all the people who commented have something to say about US. If anyone of you go to America then you can see that not a single Hindu or Muslism is treated differently. I can see that all the Hindus love their country, if you love your country so much then make a difference in stop killing Indian minority Christian and other religous sects.

Posted by Alex Mathew | Report as abusive

It isn’t that India has a squeaky clean image on religious harmony. Frankly no country has, not even the US. What however gets everyone’s back up is the US playing world watchdog, conscience keeper, sermoniser and policeman. They seem to have commissions that spend there whole time and money passing judgement on others’ affairs – minorities, human rights, child labour, poverty, etc etc etc. We hear of quite a few Indians and other ethnic groups being attacked, every year without fail in the US. Should India start a commission to monitor US record on treatment of its own and then have it published and discussed in parliament on an annual basis and issue watchlists?. You can bet your last Ruppee there would be severe criticism and high moral indignation being expressed by Americans. There is enough dirty linen everywhere. And the US is no exception.

Notwithstanding this report, the fact remains that in India there is enough strong public opinion which stands up against religious profiling, it isn’t perfect but it is reasonably effective.

Christians have lived in India and been allowed to flourish for centuries. In all that time how many have been persecuted? Does the US take note of the fact that the Church carries out an annual exercise in India to discuss how many have been converted or to use their official term ‘saved’ and also to discuss why so many have reconverted and left the fold? That many if not most of the Christian missionaries in India are from the US, who come in on multiple entry tourist visas and now refer to themselves as NGOs and not missionaries? Why the deceipt? A whole heap of conversions are based on promises and inducements. Has any commission there probed these aspects or taken note of them? Do they realise that it is this sort of in your face behaviour that raises hackles.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

I hope the Indian Govt. ignores this so called watch list prepared by USCIRF. This organization has little credibility and transparency in its functioning and is mainly staffed by people with close ties to rabid Christian fundamentalists in US. The US has no moral right to preach others about tolerance when it does little to censure the American “Taliban”, the likes of Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, and other worthless folks. I also hope that Indian govt. does not cave in to pressure and allow these bunch of jokers from USCIRF.

Posted by Mike Gatting | Report as abusive

Wow! Just… Wow! Where do I even begin!

India is THE LARGEST democracy in the world (by far) with a Sikh (2% of India’s population) Prime minister and a Christian woman (again, 2% of India’s population) that too of Italian origin as the leader of its largest political party and whose last president was a Muslim and the current president is a woman – all so called “religious or other minorities”. And this is not the first time. India has had all kinds of minorities in positions of power from the very beginning.

And the US has the gall to call India intolerant towards minorities? This double standard just reeks to high heaven. When was the last time the we had a non-Christian president, speaker of the house, or Vice President? We have barely now elected our first non-white president. We have yet to elect a woman or a non-christian as president – this is the height of chutzpah on America’s part to put India in the company of Somalia and Afghanistan when it comes to religious freedoms.

While at the same time, there’s nary a mention of China – remember the uprising in Tibet and then more recently in Urumqi? Is our government afraid of calling China out? Oh, the hypocrisy!

Here’s all I have to say to our government – healer, heal thyself first – look at how badly our own country is divided between the left and the right.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.

Posted by John Miller | Report as abusive

I can’t believe many of the comments I’m reading. The US criticism came because the Indian government did little or nothing to stop or punish radical Hindu mobs from killing hundreds of village people for no other reason than they were Christians.

We are told that India should reject this basic plea for human rights because the US did not treat POW properly or because those who brought the complaint are Christians themselves? No one is claiming that the US is perfect but where is your sense of justice? How is it that completely innocent woman and children do not have the simplest right to breath air simply because they are of a different religion.

Posted by Dan Keller | Report as abusive

@ Dan Keller.
Dear Dan, you cant believe the comments because you don’t know the ground fact. 95% of people in India do peacefully coexist with such a diverse surrounding which you wont be able to Imagine. But the point is, who is US to tell us what we should do in our country? India and Indian people are very much concerned about improving its own social structure, with 18% muslim minority, 10% christian minority and other minorities. But what is missing here is the acknowledgment of the fact that Christian missionaries are equally responsible to fuel and in some incidences ignite the communal fire. The aggressive christian conversion is going way beyond the limits of freedom of religious expression. And the ground fact of violence is that & the involvement of American Christian Missionary is no hidden fact.The ground reality is such excessive involvement of any country into a sovereign Nation’s (India) is not welcomed. India Knows its way to the future but thanks for your advice.

Posted by girish | Report as abusive

If we look at examples of Gujrat and Orissa, both were reactionary attacks. I think failing of Govt of india is not just in preventing attacks on minorities but also preventing provocative attacks BY minority on majority.
Unfortunately all reports by these so-called rights group are heavily skewed towards minorities and hence don’t command much importance to me.

Posted by chirkut | Report as abusive

“How is it that completely innocent woman and children do not have the simplest right to breath air simply because they are of a different religion.” Dan Keller

Dan, 2% of a billion people are Christians in this country, 20 million of them. Do you really believe that if they didn’t have the “simplest rights” they would ever have reached those numbers? How many deaths were there last year of all minorities in India?
Aren’t we getting carried away here?

Do you know what action has already been taken and how strong the secular lobby is in this country? How much the government was castigated and held to account for the lack in security. Of course there are lunatics, bigots and fundamentalists. Some of them walk off free but 99% of the population condemns these acts and most are ashamed that this happens in this country. Just as this is true of Americans and their reactions to atrocities in their country.

The point most of us are making here is that the US seems to think it has a god given right to arrogantly lecture the rest of the world. It doesn’t. And worse, it never seems to get the message.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

I wonder why the U.S never makes a list like this? its apparent that even today, the ameican society still does not respect it sminorities. many americans are against the influx of the growing latino prescence and still continue to look down upon its african american citizens. not to mention the fact that they openly speak against its muslims citizens and use the media to spread islamaphobia. i see these things on a first hand basis because i live here. however this does not excuse the fact that india for all its progress does openly disriminate against its minorities. some of the attacks carried out by the ultra hindu extremist is just as grusome if not worse then what the islamic extremist have done. burning people alive, butchering them with knives and swords, that’s just as grusome as a muslim extremist blowing himself up in a marketplace. americans need to get off their high horse and indians need to make sure they don’t get on.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

The US has absolutely no business telling anyone else about religious freedoms and even if a so called US commission (full of predominantly Christians) labels other nations its report should be deservedly thrown into trash. Here are just a few reasons why:

– When the US cancels Christmas holiday or Thanksgiving holiday or provides a holiday for chosen important days of other religions then it might be considered truly providing “freedom” and “equality” to all religions. Of cos knowing US christians they will find a way to define Christmas and Thanksgiving as a “secular” holidays – doesnt it occur to them that may be believers of other religions have other more important religious days in a year

– When a US presidential candidate does’nt have to move mountain and earth to prove that he/she is not a muslim but is in fact a CHRISTIAN then the US may be considered more impartial – as Colin Powell said what if Obama was muslim ?? – of cos we all know then he would not have had a chance to win in this so called “equal” society

– When US airports do not routinely profile and harass passengers with last names like Ahmed, Khan or Muhammad then they may have more of a right to say anything on the matter of religious equality

– When the currency in US says in addition to “In God we trust” things like “In Allah we trust” or “In Bhagwan we trust” or “In Buddha we trust” etc then it may be considered to have greater credibility

Till the US addresses issues such as these and many others its effort to label other countries should be considered merely as trying to boss around and such reports should be summarily dismissed and trashed for they are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Posted by Ranbir | Report as abusive

Can somebody tell me that Gujurat riots (2002), Kandhmal riots (Orissa) didn’t happen?

We need to improve irrespective of anything. We should make India safe, secure and prosperous for all Indians. Look at Ex-President Kalam and his contribution to India. If every minority becomes another Kalam, how much India will progress.

It is the duty of strong and majority to protect the weak and minority.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

Godhra and Gujarat happened together. Likewise Swami’s murder and Kandmahal happened together.
I am all for your second para that we should make India safe, secure and prosperous for all Indians. However minorities of India also need to understand their duty towards majority. Its always a two way street and never one way street.
Btn how many times you have heard of Riots between jains and hindus or buddhists and hindus. 84 riots were political riots other than that when have you heard riots between sikhs and hindus. So Why only Christian and Muslims? We need to really contemplate what exactly Muslims and Christians are doing which is resulting in riots.

Posted by chirkut | Report as abusive

@So Why only Christian and Muslims? We need to really contemplate what exactly Muslims and Christians are doing which is resulting in riots.
– Posted by chirkut

Chirkut: Great question and has answers hidden inside it.

As we know that Indians historicaly were Hindus (although the name long ago was not Hindus) and then India was ruled by Mughals for long and then by Brits. New religions have taken birth, religious/social reforms have happened so that changing religious demography co-exists in peace. It is only since 1947 post-independence that Indian, despite 80% Hindus, have chosen to to be secular. But at the same time one cannot deny that Hindus were natives and are in majority and that cannot be denied. Indian constitution is secular and secularity has been practiced on the ground, if you see who rules India. Any attempt that tries to exploit unduly the inhererent social ills for the benifit/expansion of a Hindusim is bound to raise eye-brows among Hindus, when seen in the background that Hinduism does not demand Hindus to convert. Hindus have started becoming protective since they value freedom and has earned it. In view of the history o all religions and the ways they work and the way they reset the mentality of an individual or of the community has to be understood. It is not that hard of a job, if I look inside India as well as look outside Indian territory and ask myself what did people of a particular religion do in the world (forget terrorism for a minute), what kind of history they had?

Hinduism has branched out to create new religions whenever there were certain important questions asked: spiritual questions (Budhism) or military response to the atrocities committed by Aurangazeb on Hindus.(Sikhism).

In India, depending upon the category, perhaps everyone can be a minority. So let us not stick to religion.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

There is an urgency to patch up internal differences. Give concessions to minorities, give them anything reasonable they want, but lets be all Indians be together as a nation. Our commonalities are a lot more stronger than our differences. All strong nations (except China) are strong because they are united by commonalities, not divided by differences.

China and Pakistan are exploiting our differences and trying to sink us. And they will continue to do so until we are united. Majority should always encourage minorities to be another Kalam or another Mother Teresa. Majority should make sacrifices and make minorities feel comfortable and safe.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

US has every right to advise India. Please don’t feel insulted. Friends do help and advise friends. US has helped India so many times including during 1962 India-China war and will continue to do so. Look how much works Bill Gates or Bill Clinton are doing for India. I have lived in the USA for 15 years and have seen the warmth and love of Americans to Indians.

So why should we feel insulted if US advises to India to make India a better place! We should think positively and cooperatively. And these are genuine issues too!

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

Why my comments are not being posted.

Posted by Seth | Report as abusive

@So why should we feel insulted if US advises to India to make India a better place! We should think positively and cooperatively. And these are genuine issues too!
– Posted by Andy

Andy: my apology to jump in but you make it sound simple. Is there a doubt that US tries to police the world whenever there is an opportunity? There is nothing like friends at the level of nations. Yes we do have good relations. But that does not mean we agree on each issue with US.
1. Isn’t it a valid question to ask USA “why has US killed 100,000 Muslims in Iraq by Shock-n-Awe of Bush? Should not the world–Muslims or non-Muslims–ask US what the hell was that. Why US president lied to the world–and so brazenly-about WMDs in Iraq–is that not a question to be asked? Do they have any moral right. It was so clear that Bush wanted war. Are they on watch list?

2. talking about religion, is US constitution secular? It is such a murky issue and anyone can drag it any way. In my view it is secular since the founding fathers of US were atheists or agnostics and they laid the foundations of US constitution. And now we have Bush (father and son both) who think an atheist cannot be patriot (father Bush said in an interview). What is that currency “In GOD we trust” doind in Atheists Wallet? Imposing religion on Atheists?

It just does not gel in nice with what US does and what it preaches. 1 trillion dollar debt from China killed US morality to question China and US was much vocal earlier.

India will do irrespective of these hypocrites. About India, you and I know that mostly people are tolerant and yes govt needs to do more to punish the culprits. Let me be blunt–I am against this conversion business of Missionaries. It is just creating additional problems. This business of taking care of minority has become a problem itself not a solution since minority issue is used as vote bank and will never ever stop bridging the gap. saying a leader as Dalit leader will never get rid of Dalit. All should be Indians irespective of any difference-be that religion or anything else. I can nearly put any Indian in some kind of minority. From what I have seen Indians during the time of need stick togther and that’s what matters.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

@It is the duty of strong and majority to protect the weak and minority.
– Posted by Andy

Andy. True.
Does minority also has some obligation towards majority?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive