Washington, Oct 14: India witnessed religiously motivated killings, arrests, riots and coerced religious conversions and the police in some cases failed to respond effectively to communal violence, according to the US State Department report on International Religious Freedom 2014.
In the India section of the Congressional mandated annual report released by Secretary of State John Kerry today, the State Department said that some government officials made discriminatory statements against religious minorities.
"There were reports of religiously motivated killings, arrests, coerced religious conversions, religiously motivated riots and actions restricting the right of individuals to change religious beliefs," said the report.
It said that in some cases, local police failed to respond effectively to communal violence, including attacks against religious minorities, although local officials used broad authorities to deploy police and security forces to control outbreaks of religiously motivated violence.
The local nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Act Now for Harmony and Democracy reported more than 800 religiously- motivated attacks from May through the end of the year 2014. Citing Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Niranjan Jyoti's remarks at an election rally in Delhi, it said government officials reportedly made discriminatory statements against members of religious minorities.
"After her remarks stirred several days of heated national condemnation and disrupted proceedings of parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in parliament that he 'strongly disapproved of the remarks' and 'we should avoid using such language'.
Jyoti subsequently expressed regret for her remark," the report said. The State Department said there is restriction on free expression on basis of religion in India. Authorities continued to enforce laws designed to protect "religious sentiments" which, according to observers, at times had the effect of limiting free expression related to religion, the report said.
The State Department rued that hundreds of legal cases remained pending from violence during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Nanavati-Mehta Commission on the 2002 riots ultimately released its Final Report on November 18.
Some NGOs called into question the impartiality of the findings. Court cases related to the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Odisha continued, resulting in convictions for persons responsible for the public rape of a nun during the riots. Displaced Kashmiri Hindu Pandits continued to seek redress for crimes committed against them and their houses of worship by Kashmiri insurgents in the 1990s, it said.