Religious intolerance on rise in South Asia: Report

July 1st, 2010 - 6:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) Religious intolerance is on the rise in South Asia, including in India, leading to discrimination and violent attacks against minorities, says a new report by Minority Rights Group International.
The report titled “State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010″, which was released Thursday, says that while religious nationalism was on the rise, the abuse of counter-terrorism laws too have led to a growing pattern of persecution against religious minorities globally.

In its South Asia chapter, the report says that religious minorities are facing increased incidents of targeted attacks and persecution across South Asia “as states are turning a blind eye to the rise of nationalist and radical groups”.

“Militant and extremist groups from Taliban in Pakistan and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in India have been accused of a series of religiously motivated killings and attacks,” the report says.

It cites the example of US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which in 2009 put India on its watch list of countries with violations of freedom of religion.

“The large scale violent incidents in 2008 against Christians in Orissa and the climate of impunity towards violations of religious rights contributed towards this decision (by the USCIRF),” the report says.

“Christians in India face threats and intimidation and are forcibly made to convert to Hinduism,” it says.

Citing newspaper articles, the report points out that 18 Indian Catholic families were “forcibly taken to a Hindu temple where they were made to convert and perform Hindu rituals and then sign statements that they had voluntarily converted”.

In an unspecified account of communal riots in India in 2009, the report claims 23 people were killed and 73 injured in violence against religious minorities by Hindu extremist groups.

“There was a rise in incidents in the south of the country. Of the 152 incidents against Christians during 2009, 86 happened in southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.”

On the situation of Muslims, the reports says it “remains tense” in some parts of India.

Since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the report says, “the Indian government has used counter-terrorism measures to arrest and detain large number of Muslims arbitrarily”.

In Pakistan, attacks against religious minorities have escalated in recent years, the report says, citing the examples of Pakistani Sikhs and Christians who have been displaced in the fighting between government troops and Taliban militants.

“The Taliban and other extremist groups were also responsible for several attacks against Christians, burning down churches, destroying Bibles and forcibly converting people to Islam”.

Farah Mihlar, who has authored the South Asia chapter, said in South Asia “irrespective of the religious community you belong to, simply being in the minority puts you under increased threat of attack and persecution”.

Shoba Das, programme director of Minority Rights Group International, said: “There is a clear trend of counter-terrorism laws and rhetoric used to either carry out attacks against particular religious communities or justify restrictions of freedom of particular groups.”

And South Asian states “provide plenty of examples of this”, Das said.

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