Despite the government's efforts to foster communal harmony, "low police to population ratio, corruption, and an overburdened and antiquated court system", violations of religious freedom exist in India, a U.S. report has said.
While legal protections against violations of religious freedom exist in India, corruption and a lack of sufficient trained police led to the law not always being enforced rigorously, according to a recently released report by the State Department of the United States.
The International Religious Freedom Report 2010, the State Department said that despite government efforts to foster communal harmony, extremist groups continued to view “ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks on religious minorities” as a signal that they could commit such violence with impunity.
However the report did not completely clear the government of all responsibility for acts of violence relating to religion, in particular suggesting that law enforcement and prosecution was weak due to a “low police to population ratio, corruption, and an overburdened and antiquated court system.”
It argued that some state and local governments also limited religious freedom by maintaining or enforcing existing anti-conversion legislation and by not efficiently or effectively prosecuting those who attacked religious minorities. In particular it noted that there were active anti-conversion laws in six of the 28 states – Gujarat, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh.
Outside of India the report specifically criticised the persecution of minority groups in Pakistan. The report said that Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus reported governmental and societal discrimination in the country.
The manifestation of this discrimination ranged from defining as illegitimate the children born to Hindu or Christian women even after they converted to Islam after marriage, to difficulties faced by Hindus in importing books from India and persistent discrimination against Hindus, Sikhs, and Ahmadis in admission to higher education institutions.
The report also presented an extensive list of incidents across Indian states, in which religious freedoms had been attacked. Most entailed attacks by private citizens and groups on religious minorities and their organisations.
The report further quoted data from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs’ 2009-10 Annual Report according to which there were 826 instances of communal violence, involving 125 fatalities and 2,424 persons injured.
The data also suggested that there were 750 incidents of Hindu-Muslim violence throughout the country in 2009 resulting in 123 deaths and 2,380 injuries, compared with 656 incidents, including four riots, in 2008 resulting in 123 deaths and 2,272 injuries.
However the report also noted some positive developments relating to religious freedoms. In particular it praised the National Foundation for Communal Harmony for providing assistance for the physical and psychological rehabilitation of child victims of communal, caste, ethnic, or terrorist violence.
In a similar vein the report lauded the Andhra Pradesh government for allocating approximately $5.89 million for the Andhra Pradesh Christian Finance Corporation; the Gujarat High Court for directing the state government to resolve the issue of restoring mosques and dargahs destroyed or damaged during 2002 Gujarat riots; the central government for announcing an increase of $32 million to the National Minorities Development Finance Corporation for funding programs for minority welfare.
Overall the national government, led by the United Progressive Alliance, continued to implement an inclusive and secular platform that included respect for the right to religious freedom, the report said.