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India on US religion panel watch list

New Delhi, April 29: America’s religious freedom monitor has placed India on its “watch list” for the second year running, calling Delhi’s steps to address “threats to religious minorities’’ slow and often ineffective.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which will release its report tomorrow, lists India with 28 other countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China.

All these countries require “close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government”, says the commission, a bipartisan federal body whose members are appointed by the US President, Senate and the House of Representatives.

Last year, India was criticised for the violence against Christians (in Orissa) and Muslims and slow justice for the Gujarat riot victims. This time, the commission has again cited the court delays and accused the government of deficient investigation and prosecution.

“Justice for victims of communal violence was slow and often ineffective, thereby perpetuating a climate of impunity. While there was no large-scale communal violence against religious minorities during the reporting period (2009), attacks on Christians and Muslims and their places of worship continued, along with incidents of intolerance against both,” the commission said.

The panel has urged Washington “to integrate concern for religious freedom and related human rights into all bilateral contacts with India, and for (the) US ambassador to India to speak out against, and seek to visit sites of communal violence”.

It has added that for the second consecutive year, the commission members “attempted to visit India, but no visas were granted”.

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