Some states in India limit religious freedom, says US report

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Washington, Sep 15 (UNI) Some state and local governments in India limit in practice the freedom of religion, enshrined in the country's constitution, says a US State Department report.

India's National Government generally respected this right in practice, noted the annual world-wide survey of religious freedom in 2006 released here yesterday.

The policy of India's National Government continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion, during the period covered by the report.

The report indicted problems in some provinces of the country.

Some state governments enacted and amended "anti-conversion" laws with police and enforcement agencies did not acting swiftly enough to effectively counter societal attacks particularly against religious minorities, said the report.

Despite Government efforts to foster communal harmony some extremists continued to evade due to ineffective investigation and prosecution on charges of attacks on religious minorities, particularly at the state and local level, added the report.

It indicated that they could commit such violence with impunity, although numerous cases were in the courts at the end of the reporting period, noted the report.

The report praised the National Government, led by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for implementing an inclusive and secular platform that included respect for the right to religious freedom.

''Despite the National Government's rejection of "Hindutva," the ideology that espouses the inculcation of Hindu religious and cultural norms above other religious norms continued to influence some government policies and actions at the state at local levels'', pointed out the report.

The report document was critical of the states ruled by Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) where there were reports of organized societal attacks against minority religious groups though the vast majority of Indians of every religious group lived in peaceful coexistence.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released the report which covered 198 countries and territories this year.

Countries found to be violators of religious freedom are subject to US sanctions under Acts of the Congress.

''Past year saw progress against religion-based discrimination in a diverse list of countries including India'', said US Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom John Hanford.

He made it point to note that Rajasthan Governor Prtibha Patil who later this year was elected to the Presidency of the country, refused to sign a provincial anti-conversion law, effectively nullifying the law.

UNI

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