By Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Katrina Lantos Swett is Vice Chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Mary Ann Glendon is a USCIRF Commissioner. The views expressed are their own.
This month, the world’s second most populous nation has resumed its annual commemoration of end-of-year holy days. India’s Hindu population, along with Jains and Sikhs, has celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights. Muslims are marking Al Hijra, the Islamic New Year, and Ashura on November 14. Next month, Christians will celebrate Christmas.
Taken together, these holidays are a testament to India’s remarkable religious diversity. Besides its Hindu majority, India includes the world’s third largest Muslim population, 25 million Christians, and Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Jews, and others. As the world’s largest democracy, India officially tolerates this diversity. India’s prime minister is Sikh and the ruling Congress Party head is Catholic.
Yet on the ground, in a number of key areas across the country, there exists a second, markedly less benign India.
Pew’s Religious Restrictions Report finds that India scores “high” on government restrictions and “very high” on social hostilities indexes. In addition, a Pew survey of nations with significant Muslim populations excluded India, as local survey houses feared that questions on religious identity and belief could put interviewers’ safety at risk from local authorities or residents.
Indeed, the governments and societies of several Indian states display unmistakable hostility to freedom of conscience and religion, especially for religious minorities. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on which we serve, continues to monitor India for its disturbing violations of globally recognized standards for this fundamental right.
More from GPS: 'Untouchables' declare own religion
Over the past decade, hostility has often devolved into violence. This year, according to India’s government, there have been 479 acts of Hindu-Muslim violence, killing 107 and injuring nearly 1,700. In September, 50 people died and nearly 40,000 fled Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. Anti-Christian violence followed the August 2008 murder of a Hindu leader in Odisha, even though Maoists claimed responsibility. The U.S. State Department reported 40 deaths, 134 injuries, destroyed churches and homes, and more than 10,000 fleeing the state. In December 2007, in Odisha, Hindu-Christian clashes caused several deaths, dozens of injuries, thousands displaced, and devastated churches and homes. Most notoriously, in February 2002 in Gujarat, Hindu mobs killed as many as 2,500 mostly Muslims, forced 100,000 to flee, and destroyed homes. Christians also were killed and churches demolished. India’s National Human Rights Commission cited premeditated violence by Hindu nationalists, complicity by state governmental officials, and police inaction.
At least two factors have fueled the bloodshed – anti-conversion laws and a failure to bring perpetrators to justice. A number of states have “freedom-of-religion acts” that, while purportedly banning forced conversions, require state approval for conversions and prevent Christians and others from peacefully persuading Hindus to switch religions.
More from CNN: 5 takeaways from religion survey
Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajastan states have anti-conversion laws, although not all have ratified them, and Maharashtra is considering such an act. In Madhya Pradesh, India’s second largest state, the ruling BJP party recently submitted an amendment to its anti-conversion law, which would stiffen jail time and increase fines. These laws bar religious speech and proselytizing, and any allegation that a Christian tried to convert a Hindu can unleash violence or lead police to arrest Christians.
But the poster child for India’s failure to punish the violent remains Narendra Modi, who is Gujarat’s chief minister – a post he held during the 2002 riots. Gujarat’s high court rapped the Modi administration for inaction and ordered compensation for religious structures that suffered damage. In 2005, the U.S. State Department agreed with the recommendation of USCIRF and others to revoke Modi’s visa.
True, in April 2012, the highest court’s Special Investigative Team failed to prove guilt against Modi and others in a case involving the deaths of nearly 70 people. But he remains implicated in other Gujarat-associated cases that have yet to be investigated or adjudicated. That is why, more recently, 65 members of India’s parliament reportedly wrote to President Barack Obama, requesting that he not issue Modi a visa. Sadly, despite all this, Gujarat’s most controversial resident is the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in India’s 2014 prime ministerial election.
It was another son of Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi, who once offered a broad, tolerant vision for the country and its multi-religious society. So, as 2014 draws nigh, whose vision will be embraced? Which India will prevail – that of religious freedom or religious intolerance? Time will tell.
"But he remains implicated in other Gujarat-associated cases that have yet to be investigated or adjudicated"
What about innocent until proven guilty? Will you decide who will be the PM candidate of india ? should we sitting in India decide who will be the Presidential candidate for republican or democratic party?
SHAME ON CNN FOR PUBLISHING ANTI INDIA, ANTI HINDU BULLPUCKY
India is a multi religious, multi- ethnic, multi-language, multi-racial democracy.
There are Indian Christians, Jews, Muslims, Jains, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhists, and many others.
All live together in relative harmony.
The most powerful person in India is a Christian woman. The Prime Minister is a Sikh. There was a recent
president who was a Muslim. There are highly placed Sikhs in the military . There are successful muslims
who are entrepreneurs ( the founder of Wipro, one of the richest men in India is muslim), business-owners,
bollywood stars, sports stars, etc.
There are tens of millions of prosperous and happy Indian christians, who enjoy the tolerance and
peace that India gives them. There are tens of thousands of Christian churches, Christian schools, etc.
There are Christians who are successful in many fields, including business and industry.
Zubin Metha, an Indian jew, said it best, when he said that when he looked at his friends in India,
they included Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jains, etc.
ANOTHER ANTI- INDIA PROPAGANDA PIECE BY CNN – – WHAT ELSE IS NEW >
The United States of America must uphold the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and condemn nations with unchecked religious discrimination and persecution! Christian rights is human right Just as Jewish and Hindus rights!
WEEKDAY HINDU AND WEEKEND CHRISTIAN
Many of these 65 member of Indian Parliament said their signatures were fraud! The truth is Mr Modi has not been convicted or blamed for any of the charges. There are a few communist Indian expatriate Indian element that drive this media myth. Ultimately, the Indian electorate will decide if the BJP or Modi get voted or not. Let us leave it to their wisdom rather than being a judge on perceived "Poster Boy". Leave it to the people, please!
As a US Army Veteran and a keen observer of the activities of USCRF, this body's lop-sided representation with solely members of the Abrahamic faiths and little or no representation for Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Confucian etc faiths, this Commission's reports have zero credibility. I. Truly wish that India and other Asian countries treat USCRF's Reports like China does, viz., issuing their own reports about the disparate treatment of our minorities and the notorious stop and search of US citizens of color. Mr.Modi's Gujarat is more tolerant of its minorities than what our Red States do in doing their very best to deny voting rights to peoples of color. I believe that USCRF is not a credible organization since it does not have any representation for non -Abrahamic faiths. I hope that Mr.Modi gets elected as the next Prime Minister of India. The UN has recognized his state as the best administered state in India, i.e., Non-corrupt! It is high time that the USCRF learns to respect India's judiciary system which has acquitted Mr.Modi of all charges reg. the Godhra riots where more Hindus than Muslims were killed,
Katrin, Mary, you are upset because you are not able to convert all Indians to your Christianity. Why isn't there a single Hindu in USCRF, though there about billion Hindus in world? What a biased article
CNN "journalists" will play fast and loose with the facts, in order to write anti India propaganda.
Indian muslims are the most prosperous, the most literate, and the most free, of any muslims anywhere.
Indian hindus have bent over BACKWARDS in order to keep muslims and others happy in India.
Indian muslims have special privileges that Indian hindus do not have. For example, a muslim man can
have several wives at once, as per sharia law.
Thank you so very much CNN for this awesome article. It is really sad to see so many extremist Hindus commenting on here. I guess they would be happy if all of us just bury our heads in the sand and ignore the awful truth about India. Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray of Maharashtra, got away, for decades, with murder and violence, based on intolerance......... is there even one person in that entire sick country that dares to deny that??? Innocent Catholic priests were murdered and their Churches and Residences severely damaged by Naxals in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.......... sad fact......... the list is endless guys........... but the truth must hurt a lot......... so denial is a smoother alternative............. wake up India........ the world is becoming increasingly aware of just how intolerant you guys really are............
Do not lecture us on tolerance, you and USA have not credibility in regards to religious tolerance. Why is that no one talks about the forced conversions by foreign missionary's and their local representatives, hate and violence is a two way road Christian missionary's funded by USA and EU spread hate towards the majority and indigenous faith, (Sikhism,Jainism,Buddhism, Islam) the USCRF is a bias organisation specializing in cherry picking issues and then morphing it according to Extremist Christian world view. We will resist interference from foreign agencies with does not have any credibility in the world. Even the timing of this article is suspect.
Caste India Sucks! Conversions made by fraud is the biggest lies! You cannot deny forced reconversion of Dalit Christians by the caste Hindus! Poor people convert to Christianity for a better life,not to go to heaven or everlasting life. I am not against Hinduism! with human face and social justice. Hindu caste system is deadlier than the dead Apartheid. What you can do to save Hinduism is to take care of poor Hindus like Jews! Dalits are educated and well organized to stand up for there rights! To hell with caste and religion based reservation! Do Justice to all like USA!!!
Indian hindus do NOT convert others to hinduism.
There is no such thing as converting to hinduism. You have to be born into it.
On the other hand, Christians and Muslims convert others to their religions, sometimes by
Why Hindus discriminate Hindus? I know Aryans hated the indigenous Dravidian's! Are you ready for a public discussion / open forum in your place or anywhere in the World?
Let India be a strong Hindu Nation! caste is evil,only satanic forces support evils of caste. I want Social Justice and Civil Rights,I am for Affirmative action just like in USA! Why reservation only for Hindus and Sikhs in India? Christian right is human right ,just as Jews and Muslims!
God save Hindustan!
You have no idea what you are posting! Please check with former Chief Justice of India Hon: K G Balakrishnan,he was a born Catholic and how he become the Chief Justice of India.New jersey Congressman Chris Smith is a good friend of Dalits and his office will provide more information of religious intolerance in India! Caste Holocaust must end! supporting Caste Apartheid is a crime against humanity!
CNN- this is very biased articale.If you are doing true journalism. Take back this article and revise and publish with genuine and non-biased facts. Please note that these kind of articles will only end up in creating hatress . I hope you understand and take necessary actions.
For thousands of years – – when Jews were persecuted elsewhere, they were welcomed into hindu India.
When Christians were persecuted elsewhere in the world, they were welcomed into hindu India.
When Zoroastrians were kicked out of Iran in the 1500s, they were welcomed into hindu India.
When peaceful Tibet was bull-dozed over by Red China, the buddhists and their leader were taken into India.
The list goes on. The current Prime Minister is Sikh. The most powerful person is a Christian woman.
WHO ELSE IN HUMAN HISTORY HAS BEEN AS NICE AS INDIAN HINDUS ???
Wow! You swept me off my feet with your comments! My grandparents Anna and Jacob will be turning in the grave!
I have forgiven in the name of our ancestor king Chera! Hail to the greatest and compassionate Chera King of Jews!
Please do not divert your eyes from your own flesh for pleasing Hindus with selfish motivation!
Raju Raja Chera
My Post from yesterday missing. It was the truth abouth faith that could have helped a lot of People. Think i know why it was deleted! Anyway will find other means to spread the truth about faith.
Hope CNN will publish Abobakar Ibrahim's comments as it is! USA,free and fair to all.
Sorry to say my previous comment deleted because I ask inconvenient question other than 2002 Gujarat Riots there was 10000 riots in India no one talk about that.
I agree with you sir,It looks like the Indian Media is Paid by the supreme Governing authority to represent the only Government Projects to expose the Scams and scandals done by the UPA
Posts filled with facts are getting deleted. Hope this facts pass the CNN censure board:
1)Katrina and Mary are simply rehashing old USCIRF annual reports.
2) Gujarat 2002 riots Casualty facts vs fiction:
Report and articles generates the impression that 2500 dead ( mostly muslims, some christians and 0 Hindus), & many chruches destroyed. The factual numbers are about 1050 dead (758 muslims, 0? christians and 254 hindus died), 523 places of worship damaged (298 dargahs, 205 mosques, 17 temples and 3 churches).
3) Gujarat 2002 riot police response found insufficient by USCIRF:
In wake of riots, police detained 35,552 civilians, fired 10,000 rounds of bullets killing 170 civilians and injuring many more. Is this insufficient ?
4) Odisha riots:
Article states 'riots followed the August 2008 murder of a Hindu Swami Laxmananda leader in Odisha, even though Maoists claimed responsibility'. On Sept 30 2013, Times of India reported that 7 Christians were convicted for Aug. 2008 Jalepesta Hindu Monastry massacre of 5 incl. 80 yr. old monk Swami Laxmananda, women and children. Both, massacre & reprisal riots, should be condemned.
5) India's freedom of religion acts, which are in cold-storage, stresses freedom to practice your own faith; On the other hand, USA's Intl Religious Freedom Act and USCRIF, stresses propagation of faith. If one is anti-conversion then another is pro-predatory-conversion.
Hypocrisy and Double standard to fool the world! USA passed international religious freedom act of 1998 for what? India says it is the largest secular democracy compare to the greatest democracy USA! One must be a fool to believe it! USA and India must explain to the poor and helpless Native Dalit Christians of India about Religious freedom and Social Justice!
Please explain any reason why the Dalit Christians must return to the Hindu fold,change their religion and their christian names to receive equal opportunity and Civil Rights? Will USA and India dare to discriminate Jews? NO,not at all. This will not help USA or save Hinduism.This nothing but plain denial of Christians Freedom of religion and Human Rights!
Professional evangelist are like politicians! your silent hurt the poor Christians!
"Please explain any reason why the Dalit Christians must return to the Hindu fold,change their religion and their christian names to receive equal opportunity and Civil Rights?"
NO ONE IS ASKING THEM TO.
"Will USA and India dare to discriminate Jews?"
I don't know about USA but india has no reason to discriminate against jews. even in history india is the one place jews were never discriminated against. the only religions who ever complained about discrimination by hindus were muslims and christians because apparently it is discrimination to not convert into them
Katrina Lantos, and Mary ann should know two facts. Hindus r too tolerant of other religions. Most of the current Muslims were converted by Muslims who occupied n ruled India for 800 years. Then British Christians converted as much as they could in their 200 year rule.
will u ever dare to criticize Jews occupying and treating Palestine Muslims inhumanely for decades?
We have been hearing many one sided stories against Modi. Story writers need to be fair to him. This write up and many such publications fail to do their duty if they do not mention the plight of internally displaced Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits ). As many as 700 Pandits were killed by Muslims in Muslim majority Kashmir valley and around 3 Lakh were forced to flee their homes at gun point. 22 years have passed but no Kashmiri Pandit is being allowed to resettle in Kashmir. If a fair probe is done it will be found that the then government led by Farooq Abdullah and his civil and police administration played hand in glove with zealots to drive Hindus out. Farooq continues to be Minister in Central governemnt despite commitiing sins. If Modi needs punishment, Farooq needs punishment too.Why majority of Hindus of India are in favour of Modi is because no one speaks about them and Modi is a cementing force to unite Hindus. If so called secularists continue selective appeasement policy, I fear India will become more intolerant and minorities in India may have to suffer because of this in coming years.
The comments made by "Raju Charles" on here, beautifully sum up the situation regarding the treatment of the so-called "lower" castes, in India. Thank you Raju Charles! For the rest of you Hindu extremists and ignorant Brahmins that have commented on here, what you guys have NEVER understood, is that if one segment of human society cleverly figured out, 3000 years ago, to screw over the rest of human society, by inventing a "caste" system, what that did was to make the so-called lower castes feel horrible, stifled, hemmed-in and kept-down, just by virtue of the caste they were born into.......... :( So the so-called "harijans" or "untouchables" and the "Shudras" and the "Bhangis" and a myriad of "lower" castes felt a dire need to get away from the entire Hindu caste system and run with all their might towards Christianity, so that they would not be labeled as the 'bottom" caste of society.......... when this number of people exceeds 200 million, that is quite a exodus of people, to say the least! What the entire world has witnessed, over the last 50 years, is that when these so-called "lower" caste people from India, migrate to USA, they could become Doctors, Engineers, Scientists, Leaders or whatever they want to become, if they has the motivation and drive to achieve their life dreams............. so when the playing field is leveled and fair, ALL castes of people from India do equally well....... so I hope these facts can serve as a hard lesson to the ignorant and extremist views expressed on here and have educated you just a tad! God Bless the so-called "lower" castes from India, for doing so extremely well in USA, more power to you, and may your children stand for President of USA some day.......... :)
For your information Indians do not have "caste". Hindu religion talks about Varnas and Jatis. As always the "caste" is a straight jacketed, linearized, rigid structure invented by the westerners when they came in contact with the ancient Indian society. The Aryan invasion theory is a myth perpetrated by German historians to reclaim their past glory. The Brahmins never governed for your information. The Kshatriyas were the rulers, the Brahmins were advisors to the King and his ministers, the Vaisyas engaged in trade and the Shudras were the peasantry class. There was considerable flexibility in the social mobility between the Varnas and the Jatis. If this was not the case, then can you please explain how Chandra Gupta Maurya, a Shudra by birth, became one of the greatest Emperors of ancient India? Or how is it that Valmiki, a robber by profession authored the Ramayana?
Your writing is a classical example of how the westerners interpret things to suit their own belief structure so that they can continue with their aggressive proselytization activities by denigrating the local cultures and traditions.
Sanatana Dharma is an ancient culture,tradition, a way of life now called by 'others' as Hinduism,a religion.It is the only known oldest religion in the world and is still continuing without break. This religion originated in today's Indian subcontinent, east of the river Indus,Sindhu and throughout history the only religion which has never invaded other countries to spread the religion and till date does not believe in forced or willful conversion. Every other religion existing today in India is because of the tolerant nature of the Hindus.Thus it is high time that India stops being a secular country and turns toa Hindu country, the only one country for the majority Hindus. Most other countries including Pakistan, USA are primarily a Christian or a Islamic country where the other religious citizens are either a minority or almost non existent as in Pakisthan. At last why not one country for Hindus though not only Hindus?
Dear Ms. Shantha B Kumar, here is why I respectfully disagree with you. Although USA might have been called a "Christian" Country approx 100 years ago, let me educate you about the USA of today. More than 60% of those so-called Christians have completely stopped going to any church whatsoever. They have even aggressively debated to take any mention of Christian or any other religion out of the public school system and even want to remove any mention of God from their coins, daily anthems and national utterances! All of us who live in USA are very happy about this because religion is a very personal matter and the "State" should not meddle or interfere within this realm........ so do you now see why you are going the wrong way on the freeway of human existence? I wish most of those ignorant Muslim countries (such as Saudi etc!) could learn from USA and move away from the State having any say in religion........ would that not be a much better world for all of us to live in and enjoy? So forget about making Hindustan only for Hindus.......... instead, can we change the name of India from Hindustan to Sabhkastan.......... a country for everybody.......... like USA............ :)
For the likes of Daniel and Raju Charles (a converted Christian of course)...when you say that State should not "meddle"...you neither understand politics nor religion. No state (US included) in the world can completely isolate itself from the religious affiliations of the people it governs....the US state is very much comprised of right wing Christians. It aids and supports proactively the right wing groups by providing legitimacy to their voices through formation of Commissions like the USCIRF. You need to read a lot before commenting blindly.
So, are 'forced conversion', and prosetelyzing acts of religious tolerance ? When we medle with others beliefs, and they cross the line of tolerence then they are at fault. What a hypocritical world we live in.
Hindus are the most tolerant religious community with no history of religious intolerance. Hindus are at the receiving end of religious violence which resulted in almost 50% of population been converted to other religion by force or other reasons. Two major part of greater india were ceded because of this namely Pakistan and Bangladesh. Due to the politics of minority appeasement in india since independent now Hindus are feeling suffocated and threatened both internally and externally. The way vested interest has targeted Mr Modi and held responsible for Gujrat riots had made him more popular with Hindus, there is no evidence of his involvement in riots still he has been wrongly accused.
What a misleading misinformed piece this is. Utter disregard for truth. This article has been presented purely for the benefit of the corrupt ruling Congress party of India. CNN allows and even encourages such anti-India junk because they are joined at the hip with IBN in India which is the most worthless biased media house on the face of this earth. And everyone, at least in India knows that. What a waste of time this was! CNN is fast deteriorating into a left-liberal communist piece of rag.
what about the genocide that the US is carrying out in various parts of the world for ages – vietnam, iraq, libya and so many others..all that is respecting peoples freedom and values and all the esoteric things you talk about ..what about the fact that women were not allowed to vote till a few decades back and the blacks got equal opportunity only a few decades back..what about the various crusades which massacred millions of people across the world include India and the horrific Goa inquisition ...what does USCRIF have to say about that ..mercy killing ? easy to criticize others we're not questioning you about your misdeeds atleast dont throw stones at us
Hello to USCRIF and its lies and hateful work!
what about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan whrer religious freedom is almost extinct.
Did you make any noise when Taliban in Afghanistan demolished the largest statue of Buddha in the world?
It appears that your commission is working only for Christians & Muslims. Both believe in conversion.
Then again who cares about USCRIF.
Country India need not respond to these reports because its none of USA business.
1. This is none of America's business, so STFU
2. India's record of secularism (france banned hijab, the Swiss banned minarets) and of NOT indulging in slavery, genocide (eg. US in America) trumps that of most countries in the world
3. Religious minorities prosecuted the world over have received safe haven in India (Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, etc.)
4. The roots of religious conflicts in India date back to the 1300 AD during the first waves of invasion from central asia – in the absence of this context and of the appeasement mentality of the Ruling govt, CNN's blog makes no sense
5. Ridiculous attempts at proselytising (eg on stage miracles by missionaries) have rightly been clamped down upon.
6. US continues to provide visas to heads of states and ministers of such bigoted states as Saudi Arabia
7. We have issues with the caste system and like Adi Sankara, Dayanand Saraswati, the Buddha, such evils of Hindu society will be reformed and these reforms will come from within. We do NOT need lectures from recently civilized nations with dubious track records of slavery, denying women the right to vote and of genocide in South East Asia
In summary – STFU, America.
Great article everyone should read, Chief Justice of India had to lead a double life. After reading all these comments, you would all be well served to take time and read to continue the conversation:
Mr Charles I saw your comment listed their as well -http://indianrealist.com/2011/01/03/another-dalit-turns-out-to-be-a-christian/comment-page-1/#comment-5376
In Reference I wanted to add I agree with you full heartily.
According to the comments-
Valid Fact: CNN and the American government somehow profit from India being criticized
Invalid Fact: All the several recorded instances of an Hindu-Muslim tensions can be ignored so long as you are patriotic in a random internet feed
In India we have reservations for animals who are going extinct, in the US we have reservations of the original inhabitants who are almost extinct. Who are these people to point fingers at India.
Amongst the US's longest standing and closest allies is Saudi Arabia. Who are these women from USCIRF trying to fool. For a country that has been at war continuously for over 60 years, whose very economic survival depends on war, which has more blood on its hand than any other during the same period, what is the credibility of the US itself, let along something called USCIRF.
Everyone loves what you guys are up too. This type of clever work and exposure!
Keep up the very good works guys I've incorporated you
guys to our blogroll.
It's very trouble-free to find out any matter on net as compared to books, as
I found this article at this website.
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