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Countries of Particular Concern: India

Unlike other countries recommended for CPC designation, India has
a democratically elected government, is governed essentially by
the rule of law, and has a tradition of secular governance that
dates back to the country's independence. Despite these democratic
traditions, however, religious minorities in India continue to be
subject to violent attacks, including killings, in what is called
"communal violence." Those responsible for the violence
are rarely held responsible for their actions. This violence against
religious minorities has coincided with the rise in political influence
of groups associated with the Sangh Parivar, a collection of Hindu
extremist nationalist organizations that view non-Hindus as foreign
to India and aggressively press for national governmental policies
to promote the "Hinduization" of culture. The ascent to
power in 1998 of the Sangh Parivar's political wing, the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP), the current ruling party in the national government
coalition, has helped to foster a climate in which extremists believe
that violence against religious minorities will not be systematically
punished.

At the end of February 2002, in the town of Godhra, a mob of Muslims
set fire to a train resulting in the death of 58 Hindus. Within
days, hundreds of Muslims were killed across Gujarat by Hindu mobs.
In addition, hundreds of mosques and Muslim-owned businesses and
other kinds of infrastructure were looted or destroyed. More than
100,000 fled their homes and, in the end, as many as 2,000 were
killed. Many Muslims were burned to death; others were stabbed or
shot. India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), an official
body, found evidence in the killings of premeditation by members
of Hindu extremist groups; complicity by Gujarat state government
officials; and police inaction in the midst of attacks on Muslims.
The NHRC also noted "widespread reports and allegations of
well-organized persons, armed with mobile telephones and addresses,
singling out certain homes and properties for death and destruction
in certain districts-sometimes within view of police stations and
personnel," suggesting the attacks may have been planned in
advance. Christians were also victims in Gujarat, and many churches
were destroyed. There have been cases of retaliatory violence against
Hindus, including in September 2002, when Muslim gunmen opened fire
at a Hindu temple in the town of Gandhinagar, killing 32 people.
Unlike in Godhra, however, after this incident the Indian government
called on citizens to refrain from taking the law into their own
hands and further violence was averted. In August 2003, bombings
in Bombay killed over 50 people; those arrested in connection with
the bombings claimed that they carried out their actions "in
revenge for the state-assisted killings of Muslims in Gujarat."

The BJP-led state government in Gujarat led by Minister Narendra
Modi has been accused of being reluctant to bring the perpetrators
of the killings of Muslims to justice. After almost two years, few
persons have been arrested and held to account for the deaths; most
of those initially arrested were released without charge. What is
more, state officials have been accused of failing to protect witnesses
in cases against Hindu extremists believed to have taken part in
the attacks. In one instance, 21 Hindu defendants accused of killing
14 men, women, and children were acquitted in June 2003 after the
main prosecution witness changed her evidence after receiving several
death threats. According to news reports, key witnesses were "pressured
by a local BJP politician to recant their testimony." In response
to the alleged failures of the Gujarat government, the high court
of Gujarat admitted an amended criminal appeal filed by the state
government seeking a retrial of those acquitted. In October 2003,
police in Gujarat registered a case against a state BJP legislator
and four others for allegedly intimidating witnesses in the incident.
Also in October, after declaring that it had "no faith left"
in the state's handling of the investigations, India's Supreme Court
instructed the Gujarat state government to appoint new prosecutors
to examine the religious violence of the previous year. In November,
a court in Gujarat convicted 15 Hindus of the murder of 14 Muslims
during the anti-Muslim rioting.

Since 1998, there have been hundreds of attacks on Christian leaders,
worshippers, and churches throughout India. These attacks have included
killings, torture, rape and harassment of church staff, destruction
of church property, and disruption of church events. In January
2003, armed members of a Hindu extremist group attacked an American
missionary and seven others with swords; two activists from the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a part of the Sangh Parivar,
were later arrested in the state where the attack took place. In
a noted development, in September 2003-after years of reported stalling
by the prosecutors involved-Dara Singh was found guilty, along with
12 others, of the 1999 murder by an extremist mob of Graham Staines,
a Christian burned to death in his car along with his children.

Though there have been some convictions of a few perpetrators of
the Gujarat violence and attacks on Christians, and though the BJP-led
central government may not be directly responsible for instigating
the violence against religious minorities, it is clear that the
government does not do all in its power to pursue the perpetrators
of the attacks and to counteract the prevailing climate of hostility
against these minority groups. India's two most senior leaders,
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal
Krishna Advani, are both members of the RSS and have never renounced
its militant Hindu ideology. The severe violence in Gujarat provided
the national government with adequate grounds-under the Constitution
and existing laws to counteract communal violence-to invoke central
rule in the state, yet the BJP government did not do so, despite
many requests and the fact that the killing of Muslims continued
(on a lesser scale) for many weeks. Prime Minister Vajpeyee did
not condemn the massacre of Muslims unequivocally until more than
one year after the violence occurred. Quicker action to forestall
Hindu-Muslim violence was taken by the Vajpayee government in October
2003, when police arrested 1,500 members of a militant Hindu group
rallying in the town of Ayodhya and demanding a temple on the site
where a mosque once stood, until it was torn down by a Hindu mob
in 1992.

In March 2003, the Gujarat government passed a bill against religious
conversions. (Though Article 25 of India's Constitution provides
for "the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion,"
in 1977, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional
right to propagate religion did not include a right to convert (or
attempt to convert) another.) The Gujarat bill, which is modeled
on similar laws in the states of Tamil Nadu and Orissa, requires
government officials to assess the legality of conversions and provides
for fines and imprisonment for anyone who uses force, fraud, or
"inducement" to convert another. Though worded to prohibit
only "forced" religious conversions, observers contend
that the bill is targeted against conversions generally of Hindus
to Christianity and Islam. To date, however, there are no reports
of persons having been arrested under this law.

With regard to India, the Commission has recommended that the U.S.
government should:

  • urge the BJP leadership to denounce RSS militancy that supports
    violence and discrimination;

  • make clear its concern to the BJP-led government that virulent
    nationalist rhetoric is fueling an atmosphere in which perpetrators
    believe they can attack religious minorities with impunity;

  • persistently press the Indian government to pursue perpetrators
    of violent acts that target members of minority religious groups;

  • urge the government of India to oppose any attempts to interfere
    with or prohibit ties between religious communities inside India
    and their co-religionists outside the country, and any government
    efforts to regulate religious choice or conversion;

  • urge India to allow official visits from foreign government
    agencies concerned with human rights, including religious freedom;
    and

  • take into account, in the course of working toward improvements
    in U.S.-Indian economic and trade relations, the efforts of the
    Indian government to protect religious freedom, prevent and punish
    violence against religious minorities, and promote the rule of
    law.

Commissioners Bansal, Gaer, and Young dissent from the Commission's
recommendation that India be designated a country of particular
concern (CPC). Their views with respect to India are reflected in
a separate opinion, attached to the letter to Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell on February 4, 2004. Commissioner Chaput also joins
this separate opinion, and would place India on the Watch List rather
than recommend that it be designated a CPC.

APPENDIX A

SEPARATE OPINION OF COMMISSIONERS BANSAL, CHAPUT, GAER, AND YOUNG
WITH RESPECT TO INDIA

"We remain deeply concerned over incidents of religiously-based
violence in Gujarat and other parts of India that have resulted
in loss of life, physical abuse, displacement, and other abuses.
Moreover, we are very concerned that justice has not been done for
the victims of the violence against Muslims that took place in Gujarat
in early 2002, and that incidents of mob violence against Christians,
Muslims, and other religious minorities have continued in parts
of the country, but we respectfully dissent from the decision to
recommend that India be named a CPC.

"As noted in the dissent last year, India, unlike the other
countries on the Commission's recommended CPC or Watch List, is
a respected constitutional democracy with manifold religious traditions
that coexist and flourish under extreme economic and other conditions;
has a judiciary which is independent, albeit slow-moving and frequently
unresponsive, that can work to hold the perpetrators responsible;
contains a vibrant civil society with many vigorous, independent
non-governmental human rights organizations that have investigated
and published extensive reports about the Gujarat government's handling
of the situation and the rise of religiously-motivated violence;
and is home to a free press that has widely reported on and strongly
criticized the situation on the ground in Gujarat and the growing
threats to a religiously plural society within India. In fact, some
of the most vociferous critics of the Gujarat government's handling
of the 2002 situation and the prosecutions thereafter have been
Indian governmental bodies - including the National Human Rights
Commission, the National Commission on Minorities, and the National
Commission for Women, and much of the source material for critical
analysis of the state of religious freedom in India derives from
publications of the Indian media and of nongovernmental and other
civil society groups within India.

"Moreover, since last year, national governmental bodies have
taken a number of significant steps to reign in excesses or to correct
insufficient action at the state level. The Indian Supreme Court
has forcefully denounced Gujarat state authorities' handling of
certain prosecutions, halted key trials, and paved the way for changes
of venue to ensure justice. With such visible and proactive intervention,
the Supreme Court has made clear that it will take action to ensure
justice. In addition, initial convictions and life sentences for
a dozen perpetrators of the Gujarat violence have been handed down
recently. Justice has been done this year in the state of Orissa
in the widely reported case involving the 1999 murder of an Australian
missionary and his sons, with a death sentence having been rendered
against the main perpetrator of that violence.

"Perhaps most notably, a series of actions by Indian officials
during the past year have prevented similar outbreaks of large-scale
religiously motivated violence in several volatile locales. In August
2003, twin deadly bombings in Mumbai by groups seeking to avenge
the previous year's violence in Gujarat were followed by official
statements seeking to defuse potential violence, and silent, rather
than violent, marches in response. Most recently, arrests and diversion
of thousands of demonstrators and deployment of troops in Ayodhya
in October 2003 prevented a widely-expected potentially violence-inciting
rally by religious nationalists.

"We remain very concerned about growing threats to the religiously
plural foundations of Indian society. The pace of prosecutions against
individual perpetrators of the Gujarat and other religious violence
is slow. This is a moment when Indian government officials need
to act in defense of religious freedom by forcefully denouncing
and taking concrete steps to redress religious-based violence in
order to preserve their own legitimacy with respect to human rights.
Nonetheless, despite our concerns, we feel that adding India to
the CPC list of nations is inappropriate at this time. India has
the legal and democratic traditions to deal with religious intolerance
and should be strongly encouraged to do so."