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US puts India on watch list

Church welcomes decision, saying restrictions on religious freedom remain a serious problem

Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

May 2, 2011

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The Church has welcomed a decision by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to put India on its watch list. “This means there are serious religious freedom issues that require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations,” John Dayal, secretary of the All India Christian Council said, today. The USCIRF, in its annual report published April 28, said justice for victims of large-scale communal violence in Orissa in 2007-8, Gujarat in 2002 and Sikh riots in 1984 remain “slow and ineffective”. Police and judicial officials are “unable to redress or provide safety assurances" and there is “little hope of perpetrator accountability,” it added. In Orissa’s Kandhamal district, which has seen a lot of anti-Christian violence, the report notes that the infrastructure for investigating and prosecuting cases is “severely limited, inconsistently utilized and hampered by political corruption and religious bias.” The USCIRF has called upon India to repeal anti-conversion laws and abolish the links between religion and caste or tribal status that impact on religious minorities. “The USCIRF and the UN human rights and freedom of faith apparatus also rightly faulted India for laws in six states which curb religious freedom under the guise of stopping illegal conversions and we are worried by an emerging pattern of impunity which must end,” Dayal said. “In Kandhamal fast track courts there have been no convictions in dozens of murder cases, and punishments have only been for minor offenses. In a case where a Christian was killed, the accused was sentenced for another offence – not the main one of murder,” he added. “There is an atmosphere of insecurity and culture of impunity in Kandhamal as well as other parts of Orissa with the government abdicating its responsibility and turning a blind to the issues of the victims and survivors,” said Sarat Chandra Nayak, Bishop of Berhampur, who hails from Kandhamal. “We are part of the global family and should follow the principles enshrined in the [UN] Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” he added. IE14060
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