- May 4, 2009
US lauds UPA govt's policy on religious freedom
With it's own record wrt racial and religious profiling I do not think that such a report carries any weight in the international forums.The Obama administration has described as "good" Manmohan Singh government's policy on religious freedom but said it has "concerns" on A copy of the 2009 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom is seen at the state department in Washington. (AP)
the issue at the local level, especially in BJP-ruled states, PTI reported.
The first report on international religious freedom after Barack Obama assumed office in January said: "...we are very mindful that there are still inner religious tensions within the society, and I think our focus would be on the lack of response at a local level rather than a national - the national policy is good.”
"Although the vast majority of citizens of every religious group lived in peaceful coexistence, some organized societal attacks against minority religious groups occurred," the report said alleging "the state police and enforcement agencies often did not act swiftly to effectively counter such attacks," IANS reported.
"It's a question of how it's implemented at a local level," assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour Michael H Posner said after US secretary of state Hillary Clinton released the report that covered 198 countries.
In the India section spread over 30 pages, the report gave good ratings to the Congress-led coalition, but said some state and local governments limited religious freedom by enacting or amending "anti-conversion" legislation and by not efficiently or effectively prosecuting those who attacked religious minorities.
The report refers to allegations of NGOs that BJP stoked communally sensitive matter as state elections grew near. While there was no report of any religious violence during the general elections held early this year, the report did mention the alleged inflammatory speech of young BJP leader Varun Gandhi.
The report said the phrase "generally respected" signifies that the government attempted to protect religious freedom in the fullest sense and was "thus the highest level of respect for religious freedom assigned" by it.
Religious extremists, it noted, committed numerous terrorist attacks throughout India, including the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai that targeted luxury hotels, a crowded railway station, a Jewish centre, a hospital, and restaurants.
The report noted 40 persons died and 134 were injured as "violence erupted in August 2008 in Orissa after individuals affiliated with left-wing Maoist extremists killed a Hindu religious leader in Kandhamal, one of the country's poorest districts."
"Although most victims were Christians, the underlying causes that led to the violence have complex ethnic, economic, religious, and political roots related to land ownership and government-reserved employment and educational benefits," it said.
Numerous cases were in the courts, including cases in connection with the 2002 Gujarat violence, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and more recent attacks against Christians, the State Department report noted.
But "some extremists continued to view ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks as a signal that they could commit such violence with impunity."
"In general, India's democratic system, open society, independent legal institutions, vibrant civil society, and press all provided mechanisms to address violations of religious freedom when they did occur," the report said.
Listing "improvements and positive developments" in the year ended June 30, the report said, "In India, "Government officials responded to a number of new and previous violent events, helping to prevent communal violence and providing relief and rehabilitation packages for victims and their families."
"Efforts at ecumenical understanding brought religious leaders together to defuse religious tensions," it said noting, "in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist strikes, religious leaders of all communities condemned the attacks and issued statements to maintain communal harmony."