India disputes US panel's report on religious freedom
Terming the US Congressional panel's report as "regrettable", India's foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash, in a statement said, the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of religion and equality of opportunity to all its citizens.
He was reacting to the report by US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that criticised Indian government for doing "little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege.”
"India, a country of 1.1 billion people, is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society," Prakash said. "The constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion and equality of opportunity to all its citizens who live and work together in peace and harmony."
"Aberrations, if any, are dealt promptly within our legal framework, under the watchful eye of an independent judiciary and a vigilant media," he added.
The USCIRF, which monitors religious freedom internationally and makes policy recommendations to the US President, noted India's deficiencies in investigating and prosecuting cases that it said had resulted in a culture of impunity.
“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 Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair.
Any country that is designated on the Watch List, according to the religious panel, requires “close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the government.”
The other countries currently on USCIRF’s Watch List are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, the Russian Federation, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela.
"The reason why we placed India on the Watch List is because as part of our growing relationship in order to make sure that it is productive and meaningful as possible," Leo told the PTI.
Leo further said the Commission wants to have freedom of religion and belief to be an integral part of the Indo-US public diplomacy. "We believe human rights and freedom of religion and belief in particular need to be overlaid when you talk about other important economic and security issues," he said.
Added: Monday, 17 August 2009, 14:08 (IST)
Indian constitution, judiciary, and vigilant media could not do anything when christians were massacred in Orissa. Even now many christians, missionaries in particular, are persecuted everyday. But the media do not care to expose them.