Sat, Sep 20, 2008
Washington, Sep 20 (IANS) The US has criticised the Gujarat and Rajasthan state governments for enacting or amending 'anti-conversion' laws while acknowledging that the central government generally respected freedom of religion.
'The (Indian) constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the national government generally respected this right in practice,' noted the US State Department in its Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
'However, some state and local governments, including those of Gujarat and Rajasthan, enacted or amended 'anti-conversion' laws,' said the congressionally mandated report covering the period July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008.
'Nations must not only make peace with their neighbours, they must make peace with themselves, and that means respecting diversity, and protecting it in law,' said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice releasing the report Friday.
The report designated eight countries - Burma, China, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan - as 'Countries of Particular Concern' (CPCs) that have 'engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom' during the reporting period.
As 'promotion of religious freedom for all is central to American identity and a core objective of US foreign policy,' the report said it primarily focused on documenting the actions of governments that repress religious expression, persecuted believers, and tolerate violence against religious minorities.
'Limits on proselytisation and
the ability to choose one's faith remained a concern,' the report said accusing
some countries such as
'Other countries either passed
or introduced anti-conversion laws. Six of 28 states in
In the case of
'However, there were reports of organized societal attacks against minority religious groups. State police and enforcement agencies often did not act swiftly enough to effectively counter societal attacks,' it said.
'In Orissa, which is governed by a coalition government that includes the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Hindu extremists attacked Christian villagers and churches in the Kandhamal district over the Christmas holidays,' the report alleged.
approximately 100 churches and Christian institutions and destroyed 700
Christian homes which led villagers to flee to nearby forests. The violence
affected 22 Christian-owned businesses, it said. Numerous cases were in the
courts, including cases in connection with the 2002
Some extremists continued to view ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks as a signal that they could commit such violence with impunity, the State Department report suggested.
Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that communal violence against religious minorities was part of a larger Hindu nationalist agenda and corresponded with ongoing state electoral politics, the report said.
There were terrorist attacks at
or near places of worship during the reporting period, including a coordinated series
of bombings in market and temple areas in Jaipur, Rajasthan in May 2008 and an
explosion at the main mosque in
These attacks reflect a soft target focus and appear designed to foment communal violence, the State Department suggested.
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