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'India respects rights, but problems remain'

Press Trust of India

Posted: Mar 07, 2007 at 1515 hrs IST

The Indian Government generally respects the rights of its citizens but "serious problems" remain, including "extra judicial killings", a US government report has said.

The State Department in its Annual Human Rights Report for 2006, also said "attacks against religious minorities and promulgation of anti-religious conversion laws were (areas of) concern".

Although the government of India generally respected the rights of its citizens, "serious problems" remained, including "extrajudicial killings of persons in custody, disappearances, torture and rape by police and security forces," the report released on Tuesday said.

It claimed that government officials used special anti-terror legislation to justify the "excessive use of force" while combating terrorism and active, violent insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir and several north-eastern states.

"The lack of accountability permeated the government and security forces, creating an atmosphere in which human rights violations often went unpunished. Although the country has numerous laws protecting human rights, enforcement was lax and convictions were rare," it said.

The annual report, which is seen like a "progress card" for most countries but is derided in some parts of the world, said "Tensions between religious groups, while rare, continued during the year. Attacks on religious minorities occurred in several states."

The report pointed out that the law provides for secular government and the protection of religious freedom, and the Central government generally respected these provisions in practice.

"However, it sometimes did not act effectively to counter societal attacks against religious minorities and attempts by state and local governments to limit religious freedom. This failure resulted in part from legal constraints inherent in the country's federal structure and in part from shortcomings in the law enforcement and judicial systems," it said.

"Some Hindu hardliners interpreted ineffective investigation and prosecution of their attacks on religious minorities as evidence that they could commit such violence with impunity," the report claimed.

"Some human rights groups alleged that there were ideological ties between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP state governments that may have influenced the BJP's response to acts of violence against religious minorities," the State Department said.

It said NGOs, including the All India Christian Council and the All-India Catholic Union (AICU) expressed concern over "growing anti-Christian violence in several states governed by the BJP".

The report also talked of the impact of the Disturbed Areas Act that gives police extraordinary powers of arrest and detention.

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