The US State Department on Feb. 26 issued its annual report expressing critical concern over the upsurge of violence on minorities, alluding to the recent anti-Christian pogroms.
The India chapter of the US State Department’s 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices said, promulgation of anti-religious conversion laws and violence associated with religious and caste-based discrimination were matters of concern.
It condemned the August 23 violence on Christians and said “the extent of the violence attracted worldwide media attention, including the alleged August 25 rape of a Christian nun.”
“The police arrested more than 1,200 persons and opened almost 1,000 criminal cases, although the killers of the Hindu religious leaders had not been identified by year’s end. An estimated 9,500 individuals remained in temporary camps in Kandhamal and Gajapati at year’s end, wary of returning. Government sources calculated that at least 4,215 houses had been damaged or destroyed and that potentially 252 prayer halls and religious places had been damaged,” it noted.
On the prevailing anti-conversion laws, the report said, seven states have passed the law that restricts and regulates religious proselytism. “Faith-based NGOs alleged that this was a systematic strategy to discourage Christian prayer meetings,” the report said.
The US State Department stated that several human rights and religious freedom NGOs continued to express concern over anti-Christian violence in several states governed by the BJP and claimed that some attackers had affiliations with the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“NGOs reported that attacks against Christians occurred in many urban areas. On September 5, two nuns and children in their care were removed from a train in Chhattisgarh by alleged VHP and Bajrang Dal activists, who claimed that the nuns were forcibly converting the orphans. All were released after the local bishop interceded and spoke to the governor.”
The Department also regarded the Dalit’s case as very important. There are over 16 million Dalit Christians who from the last 59 years are pressing on for reservation status, which has been made void after their conversion to Christianity.
“A quota system reserved government jobs and places in higher education institutions for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) members belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist religious groups, but not for Christians or Muslims,” the report said, adding “Christian groups filed a court case demanding that SC converts to Christianity and Islam enjoy the same access to “reservations” as other SC groups.”
The report has come just days after UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ms Asma Jahangir, pointed that extremist groups advocating religious hatred “have unleashed an all-pervasive fear of mob violence”.
The Special Rapporteur appealed to the Indian authorities to step up efforts to prevent communal violence and include measures that can build peace and equal justice in the society.