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US censures BJP
By M. J. Akhter, Lucknow

An scathing report of America’s State Department, through which the world for the first time came to know about the real and fascist face of the BJP could not get much space in the newspapers of the country. The reason is quite understandable. 

Just a day earlier Mr IB Singh (who was the Sr. Supdt. of Police of Faizabad on 6 December 1992 when ancient Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya) was telling me in the Lucknow High Court campus how the Sanghis were furious because the Liberhan Judicial Commission persisted in issuing summons to Mr Lal Krishan Advani to face trial box. He is presently Union Home Minister and a man awaiting criminal trial before a Special CBI court for conspiring the demolition, flaying Court orders.

‘The Governments at state and local levels only partially respect religious freedom. A number of governments considered legislation during the period covered by the report that would limit religious freedom’, a United News of India (UNI) news agency report by its Washington correspondent Mr. C. K. Arora says quoting US State Department’s 2000 annual report on ‘International Religious Freedom’ about India, observing that the document however does not identify such States. 

Not mentioning the names of the State and thus keeping the things vague is a typical style of the functioning of the US. It was also a diplomatic compulsion on the eve of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to that country, but people in the country know that it is none other than the BJP-ruled States of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh which are increasingly showing religious intolerance particularly against the Christians and Muslims.

Muslims have always been a target of the fascist policy of the Sangh Parivar and its associate bodies, but this was for the first time that Christians too tasted their hatred campaign. This led to an international outcry against the BJP-behaviour and even leading to an intervention by the Vatican. And the ultimate result was that for the first time the influential America coming out against the BJP’s intolerant attitude and identifying the party as ‘a Hindu nationalist political party with links to Hindu extremist groups that have been implicated in violent acts against Christians and Muslims’.

Certainly it was also the Uttar Pradesh Regulation of Public Religious Buildings and Places Bill 2000, which attracted the attention of the world’s Christian community as the sweep of the Bill was so extensive that one cannot impart religious instructions even in a room of his house if he happens to be so philanthropic and charitable. The police power conferred by the said Bill extends to the extent that it can claim about anyone to have such an intention and it will be sufficient ground for the District Magistrate to take action against him.

The provisions of Bill passed by the Uttar Pradesh state legislature had been referred for the ‘examination.’ Prime Minister Vajpayee has informed Maulana Muhammad Rabey Hasani Nadwi, rector of Nadwatul-Ulama on 5 May and has assured that ‘the Govern-ment is fully committed to preserving and further strengthening the secular ethos of our country.’ But the American Foreign Department’s report on Religious Freedom points out that ‘tensions between Muslims and Hindus, and increasingly, between Hindus and Christians, continue to pose a challenge to the concepts of secularism, tolerance and diversity on which the State was founded’.

The report says that the governments at state and local levels only partially respect religious freedom. A number of such governments considered legislation during the period covered by the report that would limit religious freedom. The Central Government ‘general respects in practice’, the constitutional provisions of secular government and the protection of religious freedom. However, it sometimes does not act effectively to counter suicidal attacks against religious minorities and attempts by state and local governments to limit that freedom.

It, however, explains that this failure results in part from the legal constraints inherent in the country’s federal structure, and in part from the demands placed, at times, on the ineffective law enforcement and justice system.

‘Ineffective investigation and prosecution of attacks on religious minorities is interpreted by some extremist elements as a signal that such violence is likely to go unpunished’, the American documents noted, adding that ‘under the Constitution, the Buddhist, Jain and Sikh faiths are considered different from the Hindu religion, but the Constitution often is interpreted as defining Hinduism to include the Buddhist, Jain and Sikh faiths. This interpretation has been a contentious issue, particularly among the Sikh community.’

Less Secularism: One more aspersion had come to India from an unexpected quarter. Singapore’s senior Minister and former Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew castigated that India was definitely ‘less secular’ than what it was in the 1980s or the 1970s. He made these remarks at a press conference in Singapore on September 14 while launching the second volume of his 763-page memoirs From Third World to First - The Singapore Story:1965-2000. Mr Lee said India’s polity was more ‘Hindu’ than before. ‘And I think it is likely to stay that way because the majority of Indians are Hindus,’ the former Prime Minister said.

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