Washington, March 7: A year-long campaign by conservative Christian groups, secularists and Leftists in the US, many of them of Indian origin, to put India in the dock over last year’s Gujarat riots has flopped.
The US state department, which values expediency over ideology and is unwilling to rock the boat on relations with New Delhi, has decided not to name India as a “country of particular concern” (CPC), the equivalent in religious terms of the state department’s designation of a “terrorist state”.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a body set up under US law to advise the White House and Congress on religious freedom worldwide, yesterday said in an angry press release that it is “deeply disappointed that secretary (of state Colin) Powell did not designate India” and five other countries as CPCs.
“The final state department list remains as it was in 2001, even though egregious abuses persist or have increased in these other countries” such as India, the release said.
The six CPCs named by the state department are Myanmar, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan.
Unwilling to jeopardise America’s bilateral relations at a time when it is about to go to war in Iraq in spite of an overwhelming opposition worldwide, the state department has also rejected pleas by the religious freedom commission to put Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan, all close allies in the war on terrorism, among CPCs.
The commission wanted Laos and Vietnam to be made CPCs as well, but failed in its effort.
“The commission believes there is ample evidence, even within the state department’s own religious freedom reports, that India, Laos, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam also meet the legislative criteria to be named CPCs,” the press release added.
In the last one year, the religious freedom commission has lent support to a campaign by Indian leftists, secularists and organised Christian groups here to equate the communal violence in Gujarat which followed Godhra to genocides in the Balkans and Africa.
This campaign has targeted Hindutva organisations and divided the Indian community across the US. It has also resulted in investigations by US authorities against Indian-American organisations, whose funds were allegedly used to aid violence in Gujarat.
Hate crimes against Hindus and Hindu institutions in the US have increased in recent months, ostensibly because of emotions released by the publicity associated with this campaign.
In the latest incident last weekend, a Hindu temple in St Louis, Missouri, was firebombed for the second time in a fortnight. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has now taken over investigation of the attack.