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US Report Worried About Violence against Religious Minorities

ICC Note: Christians in India agree with US assessment that anti-Christian persecution continues to be a serious problem, highlighting that Indian Christians are a shrinking demographic in Indian society.

by Nirmala Carvalho

3/8/07 India (AsiaNews) – In India, the world’s biggest democracy, extrajudicial killings of people in custody, disappearances and torture of members of religious minorities remain serious issues that must be tackled, this according to the US State Department’s 2006 Human Rights Report released this week. The Catholic Church and Indian Catholic activists agree. In many Indian states anti-minority policies are such that one can expect the presence of Christians in Indian institutions will be reduced to unprecedented levels.

In its report, the US State Department also said “attacks against religious minorities and the promulgation of anti-religious conversion laws were (areas of) concern.”

Mgr Stanislaus Fernandes, who is the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told AsiaNews that the “Indian Church has consistently opposed the very need of these anti-conversion laws” adopted in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and now even in Himachal Pradesh, where the ‘secular’ Congress Party is in power.

For the prelate, “there is a legal system in India which can cope with any malpractice in alleged cases of religious abuse.”

In his view, anti-conversion legislation is politically motivated against minorities and violates the constitution and fundamental human rights.

“Indian Christians constitute a mere 2.4 per cent or so of the population, and this figure is declining because now Christians, including Catholics, opt for one child or two children in nuclear families. In such a situation, there is a growing feeling that within the next 20 years or so, our presence in Indian civil, administrative, judicial and infrastructure services will decline to a level where we will have absolute no control over our destiny,” said John Dayal, who heads the All India Catholic Union.

The situation is critical especially since some “Hindu hardliners interpret ineffective investigation and prosecution of their attacks on religious minorities as evidence that they could commit such violence with impunity,” the State Department report suggested.

And apparent ideological ties between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP state governments may influence the BJP’s response to acts of violence against religious minorities.

“The government of India may only be occasionally embarrassed by US, UN and European reports,” John Dayal said, “but they are none the less a constant reminder that the world is watching the biggest democracy in action.”