US gives India high marks on religious freedom

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Thursday, November 18, 2010

WASHINGTON - The United States has given India’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) central government high marks on religious freedom but said some state and local governments imposed limits on this freedom.

The UPA national government “generally respected, provided incentives for, and intervened to protect religious freedom,” the State Department said in its annual report on international religious freedom released here Wednesday.

But “despite the national government’s rejection of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), a few state and local governments continued to be influenced by Hindutva,” said the report released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Despite government efforts to foster communal harmony, some extremists continued to view ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks on religious minorities as a signal that they could commit such violence with impunity,” the report said

There are active “anticonversion” laws in six of the 28 states: Gujarat, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh, it noted.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and other affiliated organizations (collectively known as the Sangh Parivar) publicly claimed to respect and tolerate other religious groups, the report said.

“However, the RSS opposed coerced conversions from Hinduism and expressed the view that all citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation, should adhere to Hindu cultural values, which they claimed were the country’s values.”

The BJP did not actively push for the enactment of anti-conversion laws in all states, the construction of a Hindu temple on the disputed Ayodhya site, or the enactment of a uniform civil code during the reporting period, the report acknowledged.

“While there were no reports accusing the national government of committing abuses of religious freedom, human rights activists criticized it for alleged inaction regarding abuses committed by state and local authorities and private citizens,” it said.

There was continued concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to arrest those responsible for the communal violence in 2002 that killed over 1,200 persons, a majority of which were Muslim.

The report cited All India Christian Council as saying attacks on Christians occurred in the states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

The report - covering a period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 - found that respect for religious freedom deteriorated in Afghanistan and Iran while China and Indonesia earned mixed scorecards.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

Filed under: Religion

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