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India on US religion watch list

New Delhi, Aug. 13: The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has placed India on its watch list for the first time, specifically mentioning the attacks on Christians in Orissa last year and the Gujarat riots of 2002.

The commission, while mentioning the two specific instances of serial violence against religious minorities, also cited the Indian government’s inadequate efforts to protect their rights.

“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 the annual report of the panel, a US government arm.

Any country named on the watch list is closely monitored by the US “because of the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government” of that country.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela are the other countries on the list.

“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,” the US panel said.

The Indian government and the US panel had been on a collision course earlier this year when Delhi denied visas to a commission team that wanted to visit the country before finalising the report.

The commission had earlier written to then President George W. Bush on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 2008 US visit asking him to “raise pressing concerns about religious freedom in India”.

The report has asked the Obama government to urge India to take measures to promote communal harmony, protect religious minorities and prevent communal violence.

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