Religious freedom not fully enforced in India: U.S. report
Ineffective investigation and prosecution blamed
Pakistan criticised for treatment of minorities
Washington: While legal protections against violations of religious freedom exist in India, corruption and lack of trained police led to the laws not always being enforced rigorously, according to a United States State Department report.
In the International Religious Freedom Report 2010, the State Department said despite government efforts to foster communal harmony, extremist groups continued to view “ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks on religious minorities” as a signal that they could commit such violence with impunity.
However, the report did not completely clear the government of all responsibility for acts of violence relating to religion, in particular suggesting that law enforcement and prosecution was weak due to a “low police to population ratio, corruption, and an overburdened and antiquated court system”.
It argued that some State and local governments also limited religious freedom by maintaining or enforcing existing anti-conversion legislation and by not efficiently or effectively prosecuting those who attacked religious minorities. In particular, it noted there were active anti-conversion laws in six of the 28 States — Gujarat, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh.
Outside of India, the report specifically criticised the persecution of minority groups in Pakistan. The report said Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus reported governmental and societal discrimination in the country.
The manifestation of this discrimination ranged from defining as illegitimate the children born to Hindu or Christian women even after they converted to Islam after marriage.
The report also presented an extensive list of incidents across Indian states, in which religious freedoms had been attacked. Most entailed attacks by private citizens and groups on religious minorities and their organisations.
However the report also noted some positive developments relating to religious freedoms. In particular it praised the National Foundation for Communal Harmony for providing assistance for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of child victims of communal, caste, ethnic, or terrorist violence.
In a similar vein the report lauded the Andhra Pradesh government for allocating approximately $5.89 million for the Andhra Pradesh Christian Finance Corporation; the Gujarat High Court for directing the State government to resolve the issue of restoring mosques and dargahs destroyed or damaged during 2002 Gujarat riots; the central government for announcing an increase of $32 million to the National Minorities Development Finance Corporation for funding programmes for minority welfare. Overall the national government, led by the United Progressive Alliance, continued to implement an inclusive and secular platform, the report said.