India respects religious freedom: US report



Washington: India has been lauded by an official US report for "generally respecting" religious freedom, but said prosecution was often weak for perpetrators of "religiously oriented violence".

The national "government generally respected religious freedom; however, some state-level laws and policies restricted this freedom", the US state department said Monday in its annual report on religious freedom around the world.

"Despite the national government's continued rejection of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), a few state and local governments continue to be influenced by Hindutva," the report said.

Citing laws against cow slaughter in Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir, the report criticised some states for passing laws "based on Hindu religious beliefs that restrict the religious freedom of minority groups".

Among "other federal and state laws that affect religious practice", the report cited the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) and active "anti-conversion" laws in five states: Gujarat, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh.

The UPA government "continued to implement an inclusive and secular platform that included respect for the right to religious freedom," the report said.

"However, due to a lack of sufficiently trained police and elements of corruption, the law was not always enforced rigorously or effectively in some cases pertaining to religiously oriented violence, and prosecution continued to be weak," it said.

The report found eight "countries of particular concern" in the area of respect for religious freedom: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

"Too many governments believe that religious freedom is something you get to after you deal with everything else; it's just not a priority for them," said secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowing to send all a clear message: You need to stand up for the rights of all your people."

"...in Egypt or Pakistan or Indonesia or China or India or anywhere, leaders need to be out front saying that, and then acting on it," she declared in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.

IANS