Editorial

Editorial: US Criticises but Praises India

No doubt, the US knows well how to make a point about something. The recently released US government report on religious freedom gave top rating to Indian government, observing “the National Government generally respected religious freedom in practice; however, some state and local governments imposed limits on this freedom”. Well, Secretary of State goes on to explain the meaning of phrase “generally respected” thus: the government attempted to protect religious freedom in the fullest sense and was “thus the highest level of respect for religious freedom assigned by it”. Of course, this should be music to the ears of central government; it has got away with credit of all the good, with responsibility of wrongdoings lying on regional and local levels as Gujarat riots, and the most recent Kandhamaal riots, except 1984 Sikh riots that have a mention in it, the point of the report that can embarrass it.

Anyway, the argument that India, a country of diversity, composite culture, secular structure, many languages, doesn’t need any outside certification of the level of religious freedom granted to its citizens, is a good point on the pretext of which we can turn blind eyes to any unpleasant thing in the report, which, as it seems, seeks to both praise India for its secular character and criticize it for the communal riots.

The US report, a criticism balanced by praise, should therefore be taken into the perspective it’s intended for. Through it, the US is tacitly asking the Indian government to redress violence on minorities. It’s asking for better handling of such situations using some special force.

The report, as we go a bit inside, tells us what a widely known fact is. It confirms peaceful coexistence of the vast majority of people and raises the case of “organized societal attacks against minorities”, alleging “the state police and enforcement agencies often did not act swiftly to effectively counter such attacks”. The message behind the US report is crystal-clear. Washington recognizes India as a secular, democratic country where religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed but is denied in the form of communal riots, that is too say, India is a secular polity but communal politics. The report is indicative of the American concerns about communal violence, especially against minorities. To make this point, appreciation of State’s attempts to protect religious freedom – which is only denied locally – is the best way. More than Sikhs who suffered in 1984 riots, and Muslims, who faced mayhem in Godhra, it might be, most probably, Christians about whom US administration would be worried. For Indian Christians find it better to march to American Congress for solution of their woes rather than having faith in secular ideologues at home who are sincerely putting up a fight for them.

The US report, a criticism balanced by praise, should therefore be taken into the perspective it’s intended for. Through it, the US is tacitly asking the Indian government to redress violence on minorities. It’s asking for better handling of such situations using some special force, for state police, it accuses, doesn’t act swiftly. It is calling for developing a strict system of bringing perpetrators of violence to justice, most of whom have gone scot-free.  Nevertheless, the US have raised genuine issues.  So have you got the point?

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