Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 08:23 UK

India hit over religious violence

Protests against attacks on Christians in Orissa
There were countrywide protests against the Orissa attacks

A US congressional body has put India on a list of countries which have failed to protect its religious minorities adequately.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom says India was added to the list because of a "disturbing increase" in religious violence.

It mentioned the anti-Christian and anti-Muslim riots in Orissa and Gujarat in 2008 and 2002 respectively.

India has not yet commented on its inclusion on the "watch list".

Other countries on the list include Afghanistan, Somalia and Cuba.

Leonard Leo, the chair of USCIRF, said that it was "extremely disappointing" that India has done "so little to protect and bring justice to its religious minorities under siege."

"India's democratic institutions charged with upholding the rule of law, most notably state and central judiciaries and police, have emerged as unwilling or unable to seek redress for victims of the violence," he said.

"More must be done to ensure future violence does not occur and that perpetrators are held accountable."

Last year, Kandhamal district in Orissa witnessed weeks of anti-Christian violence after a Hindu leader was shot dead.

The clashes erupted after Hindu groups blamed Christians for the killing.

And more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the riots in Gujarat which began after 60 Hindus died in a fire on a train in 2002.

The USCIRF says that the Obama administration should urge the Indian government to take measures to promote communal peace and protect religious minorities.

The panel issues an annual report on religious freedom every May.

But its India chapter was delayed after the Indian government declined to issue visas for the trip, the USCIRF said.

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