The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has included India in the watchlist of countries which have failed to protect religious minorities, citing a “disturbing increase” in religious violence.
USCIRF mentions the anti-Muslim Gujarat genocide of 2002 and the anti-Christian attacks of Kandhamal in 2008 in particular. But it also talks of incidents in Karnataka, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra, and talks of the government’s largely inadequate response.
On the attacks on two New Life church halls in Karnataka in 2008, USCIRF says “the state response to these attacks has been inconsistent. Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa did not order additional state security for churches and prayer halls until over a week after the first attack…. In the aftermath of the attacks, he attributed the violence to conversion activity.”
“It is extremely disappointing that India, which has a multitude of religious communities, has done so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. “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.”
A foreign ministry spokesman has termed India’s inclusion on the watchlist—which has Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, the Russian Federation, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Venezuela on it—-as “regrettable” and the cliche response is “minority appeasement”, conversions and other racist stereotypes. Nevertheless, the question remains: is the USCIRF right? Are minorities unsafe? Does the State do enough to secure their lives and property?
Read the USCIRF press release here