Deccan Chronicle | 29 April 2010
India again on US watch list
April 29: India is among the countries which have been put on the ‘Watch List’ of a bipartisan US panel on global religious freedom, which termed its progress in protecting the rights of minorities as mixed. [Pakistan is not on the watch list, which includes Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikstan, Turkey, and Venezuela, but is included among Countries of Particular Concern.]
Putting India on the ‘watch list’ for the second year in succession, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its report said the Indian government at various levels recognised the problem of communal violence and created some structures to address these issues.
“However, justice for victims of communal violence was slow and often ineffective, thereby perpetuating a climate of impunity.
One of the prominent members of USCIRF, Commissioner Felice D Gaer, USCIRF Chair last year, has written a long dissent note against such a decision of the body, which released its annual report running into more than 370 pages.
The recommendations of USCIRF are not binding on the US Government.
In November 2009, USCIRF wrote to US President Barack Obama, urging him to raise religious freedom concerns when meeting the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.
The letter, while noting the stated commitment of the Congress Party to religious tolerance, called attention to the Indian government’s inadequate responses to violence against religious minority communities, including Christians in Orissa in 2008 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
Meanwhile, writing his note of dissent on the decision taken by USCIRF, Mr Gaer said: “The Commission’s conclusion that the system’s ‘capacity and will is severely limited’ and that government response to such incidents has been largely inadequate.
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