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US reports 'organised' attacks on minorities in India

Bush administration also speaks about terrorist violence and "atrocities" against certain sections of people, including Kashmiri Pandits.

world Updated: Sep 15, 2007 13:27 IST

Noting that a vast majority of citizens of all religions lived in peaceful co-existence in India, the Bush administration has, nevertheless, said there were still some cases of "organised societal attacks" against minority groups in the country.

Mandated by the US Congress to present an annual report on religious freedom around the world, the administration also speaks of terrorist violence and "atrocities" against certain sections of people, including Kashmiri Pandits, while pointing out that terrorists attempted to provoke inter-religious conflict by detonating bombs.

"The Constitution (of India) provides for freedom of religion, and the National Government generally respected this right in practice," the State Department said in its annual International Religious Freedom Report released on Friday.

However, it said, "some state and local governments, including those of Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, enacted or amended 'anti-conversion' laws during the reporting period. The Governor of Rajasthan, later elected to the Presidency, refused to sign her state's law, effectively nullifying it."

"The vast majority of citizens of every religious group lived in peaceful co-existence; however, there were reports of organised societal attacks against minority religious groups. State police and enforcement agencies often did not act swiftly enough to effectively counter societal attacks," the report said.

"Despite government efforts to foster communal harmony, some extremists continued to view ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks as a signal that they could commit such violence with impunity, although numerous cases were in the courts at the end of the reporting period, including cases in connection with the 2002 Gujarat violence, the 1984 Sikh riots, and attacks against Christians," the report said.

The US embassy and its consulates, it said, "promoted religious freedom in their discussions with the country's senior leadership, as well as with state and local officials, discussed reports of harassment of religious believers with key leaders of all significant religious communities, and supported initiatives to encourage religious and communal harmony."

In its lengthy discussion of various incidents across India pertaining to attacks and violence unleashed on minorities, the Religious Freedom Report speaks of persecution by terrorist organisations.

"Terrorist groups perpetrated atrocities against civilians, including minority Hindu members of the Pandit community, in the long-lasting insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, including car bombings, forced housing of terrorists, executions, and sexual assaults.

"Retaliatory killings by terrorists were also common. Security forces used targeted but at times excessive force to suppress them, with civilians frequently the main victims," it said.

The State Department also pointed to terrorists' attempts to provoke inter-religious conflict by detonating bombs, one of which being the July 2006 bomb blasts in Mumbai trains that left about 200 people dead.