NRIs alleges bias in listing India on `Watch List`

Last Updated: Friday, April 29, 2011 - 11:48

Washington: The decision of the US
Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to
place India in the `Watch List` of countries along with
Russia, Afghanistan and Cuba raises questions of bias and
flawed methodology, a Washington-based eminent Hindu group
said here.
"USCIRF`s decision to club India in with a dozen or so
of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world,
while overlooking others, again raises questions of bias and
flawed methodology," Prof Ramesh Rao of the Hindu American
Foundation (HAF) alleged.

"The Commission`s censure of India in 2011, despite
that country`s celebrated pluralism and absence of any
significant recent religious discord -- despite provocative
terror attacks -- seems based more on a disagreement over some
states` effort to monitor coercive and forced conversions,"
Rao said.

The USCIRF decision, however, was not unanimous.
Commissioners Felice Gaer and William Shaw dissented,
describing the listing of India on the watch list as
"ill-advised and inappropriate".

HAF was the only organization invited to testify by
USCIRF that demanded India`s removal from the watch list, and
its arguments were echoed by the two commissioners in their
public dissent.

Besides Rao, the author of HAF`s annual Hindu human
rights report, Suhag Shukla, HAF`s Managing Director and Legal
Counsel testified before the USCIRF Commissioners in
Washington last month arguing that India did not belong on the
watch list due to its robust human rights mechanisms and
independent judiciary that comprehensively probed incidents of
inter-religious violence.
They insisted that the "predatory proselytizing"
supported by many US churches vitiates inter-religious harmony
in India as well as other countries and must be considered in
any comprehensive analysis of international religious freedom,
a media release said.

"We are disappointed that the compelling evidence we
presented did not move the majority of commissioners away from
their deeply flawed assumptions about India," Shukla said.

"But continuing to call out bias within quasi-
government bodies, such as USCIRF, that lack Hindu, Buddhist,
or Sikh representation and bringing to light the damaging role
that predatory proselytization plays in inter-religious
relations around the globe are guiding principles and
imperative for HAF," Shukla said.

Shukla and Rao offered evidence of the Constitutional
and legal accommodations provided to India`s minorities,
including the existence of separate personal and family laws
for Muslims and Christians, governmental subsidies for the
annual Haj pilgrimage for Muslims and the right of all
religious communities, except Hindu, to independently control
their respective places of worship free from government
interference.

They also highlighted India`s affirmative action
policies and reservations in government and educational
institutions, intended to afford economic and social
advantages to religious minorities.

PTI



First Published: Friday, April 29, 2011 - 11:48

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