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    Checking threats to secularism

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    The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2015 annual report on Thursday placing India in the list of 30 countries that failed to protect religious freedom including Afghanistan, Cuba and Russia.

    The five page report documented religious freedom violations in countries that meet a “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” standard failing to protect secularism and suggested country-specific recommendations. But India reacted coldly to the US Commission report which criticised the present government. The Foreign Ministry dismissed it saying that it was based on a “limited understanding of India, its constitution and its society.” India has been on the list since 2009 as a country in the “Tier 2” category. The moves of the “Hindu nationalist” groups like the forced re-conversion to Hinduism or “Ghar Vapasi”, the attacks on the churches and the frequent “hate campaigns” against the Muslim minorities by the Sangh Parivar leaders has forced the Commission to retain India’s status as a “Tier 2 Country of concern” on religious freedom. The threats posed by the Modi government on secularism are plainly evident and the minorities have been wary of the ruling party’s moves after the BJP government assumed power in 2014. The USCIRF report, for the first time, has urged the Indian government to “publicly rebuke” the religious and political leaders who make derogatory statements about religious communities.

    The criticisms haven’t gone down well with the Modi government. Neither the government nor the ruling party members deny the allegations against them. The report pointed out Modi’s role in 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister of the state referring to his visa revocation in 2005 by the US State Department as “the only person known to have been denied a visa based on this provision”. It is unlikely that the Commission report and its recommendations would strain the upsurge in the relations between India and the US. The reason is that Imperialistic corporate interests overlap the conscience of Idealism and Justice. But it recommends the US government to “integrate concern for religious freedom into bilateral contacts with India”. Such reports would also adversely affect the country’s identity and friendly ties with foreign countries.

    Obama after his visit to India had remarked that it was “full of magnificent diversity “but would be able to succeed only if it didn’t “splinter along religious lines”. Modi’s corporate affinity and his covet for developmental activities wouldn’t be established in the eyes of the international community until he overcomes the extreme intolerance and the hate ideologies of his party. The world wouldn’t be convinced of his claims about religious freedom as it has been critical of Modi’s meaningful silence when the extreme Hindutwa fanatics in his government including BJP Ministers and Parliament members poured out inflammable statements hurting the sentiments of the minorities. Arun Shourie, a former BJP Cabinet Minister had recently critisised Modi for his tweets “when Sania Mirza wins championship or greet someone on birthdays” and his silence “when moral questions are involved”. The look of things signals that they are going in the wrong direction and it’s time the PM took the required steps.

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