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Religious minorities, dalits face discrimination in India, US Govt. body claims

Thursday, Feb 9, 2017,12:58 IST By anju A A A

Washington | The religious minority communities and Dalits face discrimination and persecution in India where hate crimes, social boycotts and forced conversion have escalated dramatically since 2014, an independent bipartisan American body has claimed, asking the US to put human rights at the heart of trade and diplomatic interactions with India.

“Under Congress Party and BJP-led governments, religious minority communities and Dalits, both have faced discrimination and persecution due to a combination of overly broad or ill-defined laws, an inefficient criminal justice system, and a lack of jurisprudential consistency,” said a report released by US Commission for International Religious Freedom that monitors violation of religious freedom abroad.

“In particular, since 2014, hate crimes, social boycotts, assaults, and forced conversion have escalated dramatically,” says the report ‘Constitutional and Legal Challenges Faced by Religious Minorities in India’ which has been authored by Iqtidat Karamat Cheema, who is director for Institute for Leadership and Community Development, in Birmingham, England.

The report recommends the US Government to put religious freedom and human rights at the heart of all trade, aid, and diplomatic interactions with India.

“India is a religiously diverse and democratic society with a constitution that provides legal equality for its citizens irrespective of their religion and prohibits religion-based discrimination,” said USCIRF chair Thomas J Reese.

“However, the reality is far different. In fact, India’s pluralistic tradition faces serious challenges in a number of its states,” he said.

“During the past few years, religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious freedom violations have increased in some areas of India. To reverse this negative trajectory, the Indian and state governments must align theirs laws with both the country’s constitutional commitments and international human rights standards,” Reese said.

Running into 22 pages, the report alleges that there are constitutional provisions and state and national laws in India that do not comply with international standards of freedom of religion or belief, including Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The report alleges that following the victory of BJP in May 2014 elections, concerns have been mounting about the fate of religious minorities in India.

“As feared by many faith communities across India, threats, hate crimes, social boycotts, desecrations of places of worship, assaults, and forced conversions led by radical Hindu nationalist movements have escalated dramatically under the BJP-led government,” the author said.

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