A US government body tasked with making policy recommendations has
accused India of doing "so little to protect and bring justice to
its religious minorities under siege."
With the release of its 2009 report on
India Wednesday, the US Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF) placed India on its "Watch List", putting the
country on par with Afghanistan, Somalia and Belarus as well as
A statement from USCIRF faulted the
Indian government for what it said were its largely inadequate
response in protecting religious minorities.
said India earned the Watch List designation due to the increase in
communal violence against religious minorities - specifically
Christians in Orissa in 2008 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
issues its annual report on religious freedom each May. Its
principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances
of violations of religious freedom internationally and to recommend
policies to the president, Secretary of State and Congress.
This year's India chapter was delayed
because USCIRF wanted to visit India but New Delhi declined to issue
visas, the statement added.
"It is extremely disappointing that
India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so
little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities
under siege", said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair.
"USCIRF's India chapter was released
this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the
anti-Christian violence in Orissa."
Last year in Orissa, the murder of
Swami Saraswati by Maoists in Kandhamal district sparked a prolonged
destructive campaign targeting Christians, resulting in attacks
against churches and individuals.
The statement said the attacks were
largely carried out by individuals linked to Hindu nationalist
groups, and resulted in at least 40 deaths and the destruction of
hundreds of homes and dozens of churches.
Any country that is designated on the
USCIRF Watch List requires "close monitoring due to the nature and
extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by
"India's democratic institutions
charged with upholding the rule of law, most notably state and
central judiciaries and police, have emerged as unwilling or unable
to seek redress for victims of the violence. More must be done to
ensure future violence does not occur and that perpetrators are held
accountable," said Leo.
"In both Orissa and Gujarat, court
convictions have been infrequent, perpetrators rarely brought to
justice and thousands of people remain displaced."
The USCIRF India chapter notes that
the deficiencies in investigating and prosecuting cases have
resulted in a culture of impunity that gives members of minority
communities few assurances of their safety, particularly in areas
with a history of communal violence, and little hope of perpetrator
The report recommends that the Obama
administration urge India to take new steps to promote communal
harmony, protect religious minorities, and prevent communal violence
by calling on all political parties.