The US International Religious Freedom Report, 2006, commended India's federal coalition government for its secular and non-discriminatory policies, but said that it "did not act swiftly enough to counter societal attacks" on minority members, groups and institutions.

  

While three top political posts in a Hindu-majority nation are held by religious minority members - Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, is a Sikh, APJ Abdul Kalam, the president, a Muslim and Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the Indian National Congress, the party that heads the federal ruling coalition, a Christian - the Indian judiciary, said the report, is "independent but frequently unresponsive."

 

The report voices special concern against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the main opposition party in parliament that also rules eight of the 28 Indian states, and champions a radical brand of Hinduism or Hindutva.

 

The BJP's aggressive promotion of Hindutva, says the report, leads to frequent attacks on minority groups especially Christians as it gives a detailed account of the scores of anti-minorities incidents of violence throughout the country.

 

'Bogus'

 

"We totally reject the report as it is not based on facts"

Prakash Javadekar, a spokesman for BJP

The BJP, however, dismisses the report as "bogus, not worth a rejoinder".

 

"We totally reject the report as it is not based on facts," Prakash Javadekar, a spokesman for the BJP, told Aljazeera.net.

 

About the recent anti-Christian violence discussed in the report, Javadekar said, it was not exclusive to the BJP-ruled states and had nothing to do with government policy.

 

The report, according to other critics, does not pay enough attention to the problems faced by India's largest minority group, the 140 million Muslims.

 

Zafarul Islam Khan, editor of Milli Gazette, an English publication focusing on Indian Muslims, said: "The focus of the report is the Christian community; it falls short on problems faced by the largest minority community which is systematically harassed by extremist outfits as well as state organs like the police and other security and intelligence agencies which falsely blame Muslims for every act of terrorism."

 

Khan, however, said that such reports were "meaningless" for the victims of communal violence.

 

"These are self serving reports that only serve America's cause, of enhancing its own influence around the world and brow-beating the Third World countries into toeing the American line."  

 

Foreign policy interests

 

Mohammad Hamid Ansari, chairman of the Indian Commission for Minorities, too, felt that the "report focuses on Christians" but would not call it biased.

 

"The focus of the report is the Christian community; it falls short on problems faced by the largest minority community which is systematically harassed by extremist outfits as well as state organs like the police and other security and intelligence agencies which falsely blame Muslims for every act of terrorism"

Zafarul Islam Khan,
editor, Milli Gazette

He said the report, which read like a weekly digest on the Indian situation, was a reminder that "matters relating to human rights, individual or group, cannot be brushed aside by any government as a domestic issue".  

 

John Dayal,  president of the All Indian Catholic Union, who gave a deposition before the US Religious Freedom Commission during the BJP's rule, said that while the commission was "sincere and data-honest, its overall judgment does depend on the US foreign policy interests and bilateral relations."

 

The report's utility for activists working for the protection of religious groups, he said, was "limited".

 

For the report to be effective, Dayal said, the US government should press the highly resourceful Hindu advocacy groups based in the US against funding anti-minorities groups in India.

 

Dayal also wanted the UN Human Rights Commission to take a "much closer look at India".

 

"No rivers of blood flow in India on a permanent basis; but as we saw with the Sikhs in 1984, repeatedly with Muslims and sometimes with Christians, it takes but an incident for the river of blood to flow."