The Asian Age
Friday, March 21, 2008
New Delhi, March 20: United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Asma Jahangir has said that religious intolerance has risen in India in the last decade.
Ms Jahangir told a press conference towards the end of her visit to India that "institutionalised impunity for those who exploit religion and impose their religious intolerance on others has made peaceful citizens, particularly the minorities, vulnerable and fearful".
In her March 3 to 20 visit at the invitation of the government of India, Ms Jahangir travelled to Amritsar, Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow. She held talks with a number of people related to her mandate.
About the 2002 Gujarat riots, she said there are credible reports that inaction by the authorities was evident and most interlocutors alleged complicity by the state government.
"I’m distressed… I’m not that hopeful that justice will be done," she said in response to a question on the condition of the victims. "It ( Gujarat) is a cause for concern (because) atmosphere is oppressive," she added. She said the Gujarat carnage was different from the forcible eviction of Pandits (upper caste Hindus) from the Kashmir Valley in that she did not detect any "remorse" within a section of the society in Gujarat, unlike the people in Srinagar.
She drew another distinction, too. Early action was taken in Jammu and Kashmir and the authorities there did help. "The complicity of the state was not there," she explained, "but it appeared to be there in Gujarat."
"Even today there is increasing ghettoisation and isolation of Muslims in certain areas (in Gujarat). The assertion of the state government that development by itself will heal the wounds without a policy of inclusiveness of all communities will only add to aggravate resentments," she added. Ms Jahangir acknowledged that the Gujarat riots and the exodus of Pandits from the Kashmir Valley were similar in the manner in which the majority community intimidated the minority community. "That was absolutely unforgivable," she said.