2012-08-06 INDIA - UNITED STATES
Activists warn religious freedom in "serious danger" in India
Nirmala Carvalho
In the 2012 U.S. State Department report, India is among the nations "under observation". China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, countries of "particular concern". GCIC President: The Constitution guarantees the rights but it is "rejected". Atheist activist in Washington: we do not need lists, but "concrete support" for social peace.

Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Indian Constitution "provides for freedom of religion", but in practice often minorities "do not enjoy" the basic right and the concept of "state secularism" is at risk, underlines Sajan K George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), in comments to AsiaNews about the recent publication of the 2012 Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (click here to download PDF document), prepared by the U.S. State Department.   Washington's analysis, however, does not fully convince activists like Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (Pvchr), who maintains that the the U.S. government classification "is of no help."

According to the document prepared by the U.S. State Department, India is placed among the nations "under observation" for cases of violation of religious freedom. In contrast, nations like China, Vietnam, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are of "particular concern" for repressions against religions or the deprivation of freedom of worship. A note for North Korea, where the regime in Pyongyang is confirmed as a nation where religious freedom is virtually "nonexistent."

GCIC activists record that in 2011 there were 136 incidents of anti-Christian attacks, of which 49 in the State of Karnataka alone, the epicenter of the violence against the minority also because of the policies promoted by the local government, since 2008 in the hands of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"The Constitution of India - Sajan K George explains to AsiaNews - guarantees freedom of religion." However, we experience that "the reality is very different" and "it is not wrong" to say that in many states, especially "those led by the BJP," Christians "do not enjoy their full rights" or full religious freedom. He points to attacks against believers and places of worship and confirms that the current scenario of "secularism" of the nation is often overlooked in practice. Due to a "rising nationalism" and the "federal State's inability to act," says the Christian activist, it is possible to state that "the secular character of Indian democracy is in serious danger."

In contrast, Lenin Raghuvanshi shifts the focus to practical steps to promote peace and to guarantee full religious freedom. In this regard, he calls for the creation of movements and local initiatives, which could help to revive the goal of harmony and peaceful coexistence. He spares no criticism of the United States, which instead of processing documents should "raise funds through various agencies " to support projects and peace initiatives. Finally, an atheist activist recalls the investment and development programs on U.S. territory and, through these investments, Washington "should support secularism and interfaith harmony," while ensuring "the supremacy of the rule of law."