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India 'regrets' US body's censure

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

A US body's decision to put India on a list of states which failed to protect religious minorities is "regrettable", India's foreign ministry says.

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.

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

Reacting to the report, a spokesman for India's foreign ministry, Vishnu Prakash, said: "India, a country of 1.1 billion people, is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society."

"Aberrations, if any, are dealt with promptly within our legal framework, under the watchful eye of an independent judiciary and a vigilant media."

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.



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