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India comes in for criticism over Gujarat 

New Delhi: US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended to Secretary of State Colin Powell that India should be designated as one the "countries of particular concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1988.

To keep company with India, there are Pakistan, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, China and Sudan. In all, there are 12 countries on this list of pariahs. 

The USCIRF observed in its latest report to the US administration and the Congress that Indian minorities have been subjected to great violence, including mass killings. To top that, "Those responsible for the violence were rarely ever held to account," it said.

The commission has established a clear link between the rise of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the increase in violence against minorities. Under the BJP rule, "the climate of impunity for perpetrators of attacks on minorities appears to have strengthened," it observed.

The USCIRF only confirms the findings and fears of over a dozen earlier enquiries into the Gujarat killings conducted by private and government organisations in India.

While unprecedented violence against Muslims continued for weeks, the Central government refused to budge even under great pressure from the Opposition and civil society groups. Instead of sacking the state government, the Centre backed the state chief minister, Narendra Modi, seen by victims and independent observers as the mastermind behind the pogrom.

India’s deputy prime minister and Hindu hardliner LK Advani went to the extent of defending Modi publicly as "the best ever chief minister of Gujarat."

This aspect of the situation was not lost on the US commission, which observed, "Though the severe violence in Gujarat provided the national government with adequate grounds — under the Constitution and the existing laws to counteract communal violence — to invoke Central rule in the state, the BJP government did not do so, despite many requests, and the fact that the killing of Muslims continued (on a lesser scale) for many weeks".

All through those weeks of killings the state and Central government kept on shirking their responsibilities. They refused to listen to not only the victims’ pleas for help, but to official organisations like National Minorities Commission, National Human Rights Commission and Election Commission. When Britain, two of whose Muslim citizens were killed in Gujarat, raised the issue with the Central government, the External Affairs spokesperson shamelessly declared that Britain was trying to play to its voters. Such shameless denial and dereliction of responsibility marked the Centre’s role during the pogrom.

Meanwhile, a 5-member delegation of European Parliament members visiting New Delhi expressed concern over the Gujarat killings in their meetings with Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and defence minister George Fernandes on October 1.

The European MPs said the Gujarat killings had affected India’s international standing. A group member, Neena Gill, observed, "No investor will like to invest in a country if he fears that communal violence may break out there and affect business."

¯ MG Correspondent

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