Vigil: It is in the nature of my work to be well-informed. I am an office-bearer of a public opinion forum which informs and influences public opinion in the city on important issues. I have closely monitored the US State Department reports on religious freedom and global terrorism and have been struck by the double standards and inaccuracies in these reports. And while religious freedom and human rights may not be American values, the fact that the US has made religious freedom an integral part of its foreign policy and issues annual reports on the state of religious freedom in the countries of the world, it is obvious that it is a political agenda.
How many Dalit Christians have risen to the highest positions in Christian medical and other educational, social or cultural institutions? How many parishes are under Dalit priests? Will upper-caste Christians accept holy water from a Dalit priest and how many upper-caste Christians marry into families of Dalit Christians? Has there been any real empowerment or social mobility because of conversion or because of Christian charity?
I would now like to speak specifically about your mission to India. How does it help, maa?m to have the US monitoring religious freedom in India? Religious freedom is only one of the several freedoms guaranteed in any democracy. Political freedom is as important as religious freedom, I am sure you would agree. And the US prides itself on being the oldest democracy and along with human rights and religious freedom, the US wants to promote democracy too in those parts of the world where they have other kinds of governments. And would you agree maa?m that the electoral process by which democratic governments are put in place is very important too? Then how can the US which has kept large sections of its own citizens out of the White House?women, African-Americans, racial and religious minorities, where democracy is so flawed and political freedom denied to all, how can the US come to India to monitor and implement religious freedom?
Let us assume that our External Affairs Ministry which is the Indian equivalent to the US State Department or the Indian Parliament constitutes a Commission and an office to monitor political freedom and the state of your country'sdemocracy and uses our embassies and diplomatic missions to gather information and interact with Americans and American NGOs. How do you think your government will react maa?m?
All countries have their internal difficulties and problems. Outside interference can prove costly and even counter-productive. Just as we have to wait for American democracy to mature so as to ensure political freedom for all, the US must have faith in the Indian people to bring about communal harmony and improve inter-religious relations. In conclusion, I would request you to approach the spokesperson for the RSS to get the Hindu point of view in any situation. Your reports have a biased slant.
Ms Joanella Morales: I would like to state that our reports are very fair and very accurate. We are constrained to use certain phrases in our reports as mandated by the Congress. The highest grade that a country can get with regard to religious freedom is ?generally respects?. And this year, India'sreport is much better when compared to previous years. We have stated in our report this September that India ?generally respects? religious freedom.
Vigil: I did not have the heart to tell her that I know why the report is better this year. And I am sure that now that India has received the highest grade possible in the US State Department report on religious freedom, we must all feel ?knighted?. Or do I mean canonised?
The last paragraph of this year'sreport states that US embassy officials had been interacting regularly with state officials on the anti-conversion law and its reversal. If the mischievous allusion is that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister repealed the law under US pressure then I can only hope that she will dispel this impression publicly.