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India’s minority record 

New York: A leading human rights group has commended India on its thriving democracy and the steps taken to improve children's rights but said its record of custodial violence and treatment of minorities continued to be a matter of concern. 

India has held steadfast to its distinction as the region's "most stable and vibrant" democracy even as its neighbours underwent "dramatic and often violent shifts of power," the Human Rights Watch said in a survey of the human rights situation in 66 countries last year. 

The onset of war in Afghanistan, deteriorating relations with Pakistan and increasing violence in Kashmir gave rise to heightened national security concerns, the report notes. But it criticised some measures taken in response, including the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance and says the war against terrorism put into background some of the excesses committed by security forces in Kashmir. 

It alleged that "right wing" groups including Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh carried out attacks on churches and members of Christian clergy. 

"Increased violence in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP hopes to achieve a come back election victory in early 2002 highlighted the dangerous results of exploiting communal and caste tensions for political ends," it says. Referring to the Gujarat earthquake, it says, dalits and Muslim population did not have the same access to adequate shelter, electricity, running water and other supplies available to others (PTI).

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