Annual report of United States Commission
Annual report of United States Commission for International Religious Freedom
The basic feature of a modern civilised society is that people belonging to different ethnic or religious groups should be able to live together with dignity, respecting each other’s rights, religions and cultures without subjecting any group to any sort of discrimination. Every citizen in India is uniformly subject to the laws of the country, regardless the caste, creed or religion, and contributes to the revenue of the state and is therefore entitled to equal treatment under the law from the state and its various instrumentalities. It is this plurality that has resulted in India being seen as an economic growth powerhouse and is now one of the frontrunners and innovators in different business fields with Indian companies present on the world stage.
The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a body constituted by the US Congress, in its annual report of 2011 raised several questions over India’s credentials in these matters. It portrayed India as a country where premeditated attacks on the minorities are the order of the day and castigated the judiciary and the Government of India for doing precious little to protect them.
The India Foundation, New Delhi, in its Paper-16, has exposed the prejudiced in this Report. The Foundation’s study conducted by Vikramjit Banerjee and Rami Desai with inputs from Nirmala Sitaraman, PN Benjamin and Lakshmi Kanta Das, is a detailed response to this ill informed and prejudiced motivated criticism of India, its efficient institutions and its paluralist and tolerant society.
Citing violent incidents of Orissa, Gujarat, Karanataka and anti-Sikh riots, etc. the USCIRF report says that justice has not been done with the minorities in India. The recommendations of strict action against the states mentioned that were supposed to have violated minority rights are non-Congress states and the Commission clearly singled out the BJP/RSS as the purported perpetrators of the violence against religious minorities.
The Commission glossed over the incidents of violence of the Congress party workers on the Sikhs. It also disregarded the fact of continued violence of evangelical groups on Hindu minorities and indigenous tribes in North-Eastern India. It admittedly did not have a single Hindu or Buddhist member and therefore clearly lacked the perspective of either. The Commission has admittedly never visited India and yet deems it proper to make sweeping generalisations about Indian government policy. “The sources of the Commission are clearly biased and occasionally dubious. Not a single Hindu or Buddhist organisation has been quoted as a source in the entire Report. It shows that the Commission has made no attempt to get any holistic understanding of the problems. The recommendations of the Commission therefore do not reflect an understanding of India, its pluralistic nature, its civilisation or its people,” the study by India Foundation titled, USCIRF’s Criticism of India ill-Informed and Prejudiced, says.
The study says that these recommendations of the Commission would promote communal disharmony and resentment against religious minorities. “If indeed the United States government wants to understand India and to have a holistic perspective of how Indian society feels it is important that the recommendations of the Commission be rejected completely. Not rejecting the Commission’s recommendations will send a wrong signal to India and Indians, which is not in the interest of the growing US-India friendship,” the Paper added.
The Report suffers from a number of anomalies. Firstly, it doesn’t have a single member from the subject country, India. The Commission was not allowed entry into India on questions of its legitimacy and propriety of interfering in sovereign matters of other countries. The sources it depended for its conclusions have largely been from the church and missionary groups. The report also falls woefully short on facts and figures. Its recommendations too clearly betray the lack of understanding of the ground reality in India if not deliberate bias against the majority community. (FOC)