India rejects US 'freedoms' report

A burnt crucifix stands at the altar of St Sebastian's Church after a fire destroyed the church on Monday, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. Image copyright AP
Image caption There have been attacks on churches in India

India has criticised a US congressional panel claim that minorities in the country have been subjected to "violent attacks" after Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP came to power.

The foreign ministry said the panel report "appears to be based on limited understanding of India".

Critics say Mr Modi's government is not doing enough to stop Hindu zealots targeting minorities.

Mr Modi has vowed to protect all religious groups.

The latest US Commission on International Religious Freedom report says that "since the [last year's] election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)".

The report said Hindu groups had announced plans in December to forcibly "reconvert" at least 4,000 Christian families and 1,000 Muslim families to Hinduism in Uttar Pradesh as part of a so-called 'ghar wapsi' (homecoming) programme.

"Despite the country's status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, India has long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occur, which perpetuates a climate of impunity," the report added.

"The report appears to be based on limited understanding of India, its Constitution and its society," India's foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

"We take no cognisance of the report," he added.

During his visit to Delhi earlier this year, US President Barack Obama said that "India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines".

Christian groups in India have accused hard-line Hindu groups, emboldened by Mr Modi's landslide in last year's general election, of carrying out the attacks on churches, but police say there is little evidence for this.

Mr Modi has said his government would "not allow any group belonging to majority or minority to incite hatred against other communities" and the government "will act strongly against such violence".

Religious strife

Image copyright AP

2 Dec 2014: Hundreds of Christians protest in Delhi after St Sebastian's Church is badly damaged in a fire

4 Dec: Minister Niranjan Jyoti uses an abusive term to refer to non-Hindus at a rally in Delhi

8 Dec: More than 50 Muslim families reportedly converted to Hinduism against their will in the town of Agra

7 Jan 2015: BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj sparks outrage by urging Hindu women to have at least four children "in order to protect the Hindu religion".

14 Jan: Church vandalised in West Delhi's Vikaspuri area

2 Feb: Church vandalised five days before Delhi assembly elections in Vasant Kunj area

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