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J&K ultras committing atrocities against Hindus: US
T V Parasuram in Washington | December 19, 2003 13:19 IST
Militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir are committing atrocities against Hindus, the United States state department's annual report International Religious Freedom has said.
But the report also charges the Indian leadership with 'institutionalising' Hindutva and 'using' it for political purposes.
Noting that Jammu and Kashmir was the focus of violence, the report said militants have carried out several execution-style mass killings of Hindu villagers and violently targeted Kashmiri Pandits in an attempt to force Hindus to emigrate.
Mass killings in Kashmir, targeted against the Sikh community, increased fears that this remainder of Kashmir's minorities may be forced to leave, it said.
The reports pointed out that there was an exodus of many from the Sikh community, particularly of the young, during 2001.
The report also said, "Custodial killings of suspected militants, all of whom are Muslims are common."
The report has been authored by Ambassador at Large John V Hanford.
"We also see various states in India passing anti-conversion laws and taking very strict measures that can end up restricting very basic religious freedoms and, indeed, freedom to determine one's own faith," the report said.
The review said that though the status of religious freedom improved in some ways, it worsened in others during the period.
"Although there was a decrease in the number of incidents of Hindu-Muslim and Hindu-Christian violence, two more state-level anti-conversion laws were passed, and there was a gradual but continual institutionalisation of 'Hindutva', the politicised inculcation of Hindu religious and cultural norms to the exclusion of other religious norms," the report said.
"This institutionalisation," it said, "manifested itself through the spread of anti-conversion laws in some states, the rewriting of textbooks to favour Hindu extremist interpretations of history, and illegal surveys of Christians by police in some areas of Gujarat to collect statistical information not sought from other religious group."
"While the central government is led by a coalition, which has pledged to respect the country's traditions of secular government and religious tolerance the leading party in the coalition is the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party with links to Hindu extremist groups that have been implicated in violent acts against Christians and Muslims," the report said.
"Human rights groups and others," the report said, "have suggested that the authorities in Gujarat have not responded adequately to acts of violence against religious minorities by Hindu extremist groups, due at least in part to the links between these groups and the BJP."
Tensions between Muslims and Hindus, and 'to an increasing extent' between Christians and Hindus, said the report, continued to 'pose a challenge' to the secular foundations of the state.
"Attacks on religious minorities occurred in several states, which brought into question the government's ability to prevent sectarian and religious violence," the report said.
"In addition to Gujarat," it said, "violence and discrimination against Muslims and Christians continued in other parts of the country as well."
State government officials, claimed the report, continue to advocate 'saffronising' or raising the profile of Hindu cultural norms and views in public education, 'which has prompted criticism from minority leaders, opposition politicians, academics and advocates of secular values'.
Besides attacks on Christians in other parts of the country, the report said that in Christian majority areas Christians sometimes 'were the oppressors'.
In Tripura there were several cases of harassment of non-Christians by Christian members of NLFT.
The report, however, said that 'despite the incidents of violence and discrimination during the period covered by this report, relations between various religious groups generally are amicable among the substantial majority of citizens.