Hindu group alleges bias in listing India on 'Watch List'

The decision of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to place India in the 'Watch List' of countries along with Russia, Afghanistan and Cuba raises questions of bias and flawed methodology, a Washington-based eminent Hindu group said here.

"USCIRF's decision to club India in with a dozen or so of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world, while overlooking others, again raises questions of bias and flawed methodology," Prof Ramesh Rao of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) alleged.

"The Commission's censure of India in 2011, despite that country's celebrated pluralism and absence of any significant recent religious discord -- despite provocative terror attacks -- seems based more on a disagreement over some states' effort to monitor coercive and forced conversions," Rao said.

The USCIRF decision, however, was not unanimous.

Commissioners Felice Gaer and William Shaw dissented, describing the listing of India on the watch list as "ill-advised and inappropriate".

HAF was the only organization invited to testify by USCIRF that demanded India's removal from the watch list, and its arguments were echoed by the two commissioners in their public dissent.

Besides Rao, the author of HAF's annual Hindu human rights report, Suhag Shukla, HAF's Managing Director and Legal Counsel testified before the USCIRF Commissioners in Washington last month arguing that India did not belong on the watch list due to its robust human rights mechanisms and independent judiciary that comprehensively probed incidents of inter-religious violence.

They insisted that the "predatory proselytizing" supported by many US churches vitiates inter-religious harmony in India as well as other countries and must be considered in any comprehensive analysis of international religious freedom, a media release said.

"We are disappointed that the compelling evidence we presented did not move the majority of commissioners away from their deeply flawed assumptions about India," Shukla said.

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