India has mechanism to address religious freedom violations: US

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 00:37

Washington: Indian democratic system, independent judiciary, civil society and a free press together provide the necessary mechanism to address reported violations of religious freedom in the country, the US said on Monday.

According to a report by the US State Department, 89 people died and another 1,846 were injured in 560 cases of communal violence in India in 2012.

"The country`s democratic system, independent legal institutions, vibrant civil society, and free press provided mechanisms that helped to address violations of religious freedom when they occurred," it said in the annual religious freedom report as mandated by the Congress.

The report designates eight nations -- Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan -- as `countries of particular concern`.

Noting that there were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice in the year 2012, the report said US officials discussed with religious freedom issues, including reports of harassment of minority groups and missionaries, and redress for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.

"Between January and October, there reportedly were 560 cases of communal violence in India, which led to 89 deaths and 1,846 injuries," the State Department said.

During several incidents in Karnataka, local authorities either acted in coordination with or failed to stop members of a Hindu nationalist organisation from entering private residences to enforce a morality code based on their interpretation of Hindu traditions, including a desire to keep away Hindu and Muslim youths from fraternising, it said.

In India, some state governments enforced "anti-conversion" laws and authorities reportedly arrested people under these laws during the year, although there were no convictions, according to the report.

"Police reportedly arrested four Christians accused of proselytising in March in Cheechgaon, Madhya Pradesh. Authorities released the four on bail and did not file charges by year`s end," it said.

"In China, religious affairs officials and security organs
scrutinised and restricted the religious activities of registered and unregistered religious and spiritual groups. The government harassed, detained, arrested, or sentenced to prison a number of religious adherents for activities reportedly related to their religious beliefs and practice.

"These activities included assembling for religious worship, expressing religious beliefs in public and in private, and publishing religious texts," it said.

In Myanmar, the government maintained restrictions on certain religious activities, limited freedom of religion, and actively promoted Theravada Buddhism over other religions, particularly among certain ethnic minority populations, the report said.

"Some government officials encouraged or enticed non-Buddhists to convert to Buddhism in southern Chin State... Muslims in Rakhine State, particularly those of the Rohingya minority group, continued to be subjected to lethal violence and to experience severe forms of legal, economic, educational, and social discrimination," it said.

And in Afghanistan, members of minority religious groups continued to suffer discrimination, and the government often did not protect members of minorities from societal harassment, it said.

In the Maldives, the government restricted religious freedom and pressured citizens to conform to a stricter interpretation of Islamic practice, particularly following the change of government in February, it added.

"In Pakistan, where the government maintains intolerant laws, including blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws, there was a rise in sectarian attacks targeting the country`s Shia minority and instances of mob violence against members of the country`s Christian and Hindu minorities.

"There were scores of attacks on Sufi, Hindu, Christian, Ahmadi Muslim, and Shia Muslim gatherings and religious sites, resulting in numerous deaths and extensive damage," the report said.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 00:36

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