WASHINGTON, FEB 26: As expected, the US State Department's annual human rights reports for 1999 has slammed India for a whole range of abuses including ``increasing societal violence against Christians.''
In an unprecedented move, the report also names the BJP and allied political, social and religious outfits like the Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, RSS and VHP in incidents where they were said to have instigated violence against Christians and Christian institutions.
Most of the references appear to have been culled from the local media and compilations from Indian Christian groups with no independent verification.
The report says that according to Indian human rights organisations, there were over 90 incidents, primarily of mob violence that took the form of destruction of churches and religious property and violent attacks on Christian pilgrims and leaders.
In a sharp and detailed reference to the reports of scattered and sporadic violence against Christians, the report says: ``There were several attacksby violent Hindu extremists on Christian communities and Christian missionaries.''
The report also cites the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena in reference to specific incidents of violence against Christians and their institutions. It also refers to the gang rape of four Catholic nuns in Jhabua though it does not ascribe any blame in this incident.
Although the report lists several incidents of violence against Christians, there is no specific mention of the Staines murder. It notes, without elaborating, that ``priests and nuns also have been killed in Bihar.''
In relating an incident in Jhamli in Madhya Pradesh, it says a local politician belonging to the BJP led a crowd which attacked a Catholic priest. In another incident in Latur, Maharashtra, a Catholic hospital camp was attacked, allegedly by members of the RSS, it says. In yet another incident, the report says a 200-member mob allegedly led by Bajrang Dal activists demolished a chapel in Naroda, Gujarat.
It also says the SecretaryGeneral of the VHP had publicly warned Christian missionaries to leave India. Local police and officials abetted the violence in several instances, the report says.
The report does not suggest in the least that any of these reports had been cross checked and verified.
The annual human rights report is a legislatively mandated report submitted to the Congress each year. Indian officials here believe it could be a catalyst to Congressional pressure and perhaps even hearings on the Hill later this year.
A separate report on religious freedoms across the world is due in Spring. That could contain further strictures against India, which has traditionally never been criticised for religious excesses.
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.