A US government report on Monday praised the religious freedom in India despite mentioning instances of attacks on religious minorities, and lauded the "independent" judiciary and a "vibrant" civil society for acting against violations whenever they occur.
The annual report on International Religions Freedom, between July 2008 and June 2009, released in Washington by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also mentioned the Mumbai terror attacks in which extremists targeted luxury hotels, a crowded railway station, a Jewish centre, a hospital and restaurants.
It, however, criticised the police and law enforcement agencies for often not acting swiftly to effectively counter violence and attacks by extremists.
"In general, India's democratic system, open society, independent legal institutions, vibrant civil society and press all provided mechanisms to address violations of religious freedom when they did occur," the State Department said in its annual report.
In its section on India, it said, although vast majority of citizens of every religious group lived in peaceful coexistence, "some organised societal attacks against minority religious groups occurred," and accused enforcement agencies for not acting swiftly in many cases.
It also mentioned the violence in Kandhamal in August 2008 after the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda by individuals affiliated with the Maoists. The violence claimed 40 lives and left 134 injured, it said.
"Although most victims were Christians, the underlying causes that led to the violence have complex ethnic, economic, religious and political roots related to land ownership and government-reserved employment and educational benefits," it said, adding that police arrested 1,200 persons, including a Maoist leader and registered over 1,000 criminal cases.
According to several independent accounts, an estimated 3,200 refugees remained in relief camps, down from 24,000 in the immediate aftermath of the violence, the report noted.
It said numerous cases remained in courts, including those related to the 2002 Gujarat violence, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and the more recent attacks against Christians, and some extremists continued to view the ineffective investigation and prosecution as a signal that they could commit such violence with impunity.
The State Department report said government officials responded to a number of new and previous violent events, helping to prevent communal violence and providing relief and rehabilitation packages for victims and their families.
It also praised leaders of religious groups for making public efforts to show respect for other groups by celebrating their holidays and attending social events, and for protesting cases of violence against other communities.
"Muslim groups protested the mistreatment of Christians by Hindu extremists... Christian clergy and spokespersons for Christian organisations issued public statements condemning anti-Muslim violence in places such as Gujarat," it said.
After the Mumbai strikes, religious leaders of all communities condemned the attacks and issued statements to maintain communal harmony, the report said. PTI