A US report on international religious freedom today expressed concern over the slow pace of proceedings in punishing perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots,and said Muslims in the state still fear persecution.
The report claimed that despite the Congress-led national government’s rejection of ‘Hindutva’,several BJP-ruled states continued to be influenced by the ideology.
In its Congressional-mandated annual report on international religious freedom,the State Department said it “continued to express concern” to government officials,NGOs and religious leaders over the “slow pace” of bringing the perpetrators of the 2002 violence in Gujarat to justice.
Devoting a considerable portion in the India section of the report to the 2002 Gujarat communal riots,the State Department said civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government’s failure to arrest those responsible for the violence that resulted in the killing of “more than 1,200 persons,the majority of whom were Muslim”.
“Media reports indicated some Muslims still feared repercussions from Hindu neighbours as they waited for the court cases to be resolved,” it said,pointing out that several thousands still lived in refugee camps.
It claimed that several victims have accused the Special Investigation Team (SIT),appointed by the Supreme Court in March 2008,of pressuring them to dilute their testimonies.
“In many of the cases tried in Gujarat’s lower courts,the accused were acquitted due to a lack of evidence or changes in the testimony. Three of nine major cases stemming from the 2002 Gujarat riots made partial progress during the year. The Supreme Court asked the SIT to probe these nine cases in March 2008,” it pointed out.
“Hundreds of other court cases stemming from the 2002 violence (which were not in the purview of the SIT) remained unsettled,” the report said.
The State Department cited the Supreme Court’s direction to a trial court in Gujarat to probe whether Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 60 others could be prosecuted for their role in the riots and referred Zakia Jafri’s complaint to the Gujarat state courts in the Gulberg Society massacre case.
“The trial court had not pronounced its verdict at the end of the year,” said the report.
“On July 25,the SIT also submitted to the Supreme Court two status reports on the nine cases of Gujarat communal violence from 2002. The SIT told the Supreme Court that trials in seven cases were nearing completion and that the statements of witnesses were being recorded in the other two cases,” it said.
The International Religious Freedom Report for 2011 also listed the ban on cow slaughter and anti-conversion bills by the BJP-ruled states like Gujarat and Karnataka as developments influenced by Hindutva.
“Despite the national government’s continued rejection of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism),a few state and local governments continue to be influenced by Hindutva.
“During the year,some states passed laws based on Hindu religious beliefs that restrict the religious freedom of minority groups,” said the report.
Laws in Rajasthan,Uttarakhand,Punjab,Himachal Pradesh,and Jammu and Kashmir also ban cow slaughter and illegal transportation of cows,it said.
It also pointed out active “anticonversion” laws in five states — Gujarat,Odisha,Chhattisgarh,Madhya Pradesh,and Himachal Pradesh.
The State Department said though there are no requirements for religious groups to be licensed,the Indian government prohibits foreign missionaries of any religious group from entering the country without prior clearance.
The report also refers to the controversial decision by Karnataka to include Bhagavad Gita in the curriculum.