A US government report gave top rating to the Indian
government for doing its best to protect religious freedom, but
criticised some state and local governments for imposing limits on
"The National Government generally
respected religious freedom in practice; however, some state and
local governments imposed limits on this freedom," the State
Department said Monday in its Congressionally mandated annual report
on International Religions Freedom.
"Although the vast majority of
citizens of every religious group lived in peaceful coexistence,
some organized societal attacks against minority religious groups
occurred," the report said alleging "the state police and
enforcement agencies often did not act swiftly to effectively
counter such attacks."
Releasing the report covering 198
countries, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoped it "will
encourage existing religious freedom movements around the world and
promote dialogue among governments and within societies."
The report said the phrase "generally
respected" signifies that the government attempted to protect
religious freedom in the fullest sense and was "thus the highest
level of respect for religious freedom assigned" by it.
Religious extremists, it noted,
committed numerous terrorist attacks throughout India, including the
November 2008 attacks in Mumbai that targeted luxury hotels, a
crowded railway station, a Jewish centre, a hospital, and
The report noted 40 persons died and
134 were injured as "violence erupted in August 2008 in Orissa after
individuals affiliated with left-wing Maoist extremists killed a
Hindu religious leader in Kandhamal, one of the country's poorest
"Although most victims were
Christians, the underlying causes that led to the violence have
complex ethnic, economic, religious, and political roots related to
land ownership and government-reserved employment and educational
benefits," it said.
Numerous cases were in the courts,
including cases in connection with the 2002 Gujarat violence, the
1984 anti-Sikh riots, and more recent attacks against Christians,
the State Department report noted.
But "some extremists continued to view
ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks as a signal
that they could commit such violence with impunity."
"In general, India's democratic
system, open society, independent legal institutions, vibrant civil
society, and press all provided mechanisms to address violations of
religious freedom when they did occur," the report said.
Listing "improvements and positive
developments" in the year ended June 30, the report said, "In India,
"Government officials responded to a number of new and previous
violent events, helping to prevent communal violence and providing
relief and rehabilitation packages for victims and their families."
"Efforts at ecumenical understanding
brought religious leaders together to defuse religious tensions," it
said noting, "in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist
strikes, religious leaders of all communities condemned the attacks
and issued statements to maintain communal harmony."
Arun Kumar can be