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Freedom of Conscience and Attacks on Christians

The idea that fundamental rights are enjoyed by all, without any distinction of race, sex, language, ethnic origin, nationality and religion, is a basic principle of democracy and international human rights law. Violent attacks on the Christian minorities in different parts of the country are an assault on the very notion of democracy and universal human rights. Despite the country’s obligation to respect and protect the right to freedom of conscience and religion, the wave of killings, beatings, sexual assaults, looting, destruction of property, and displacement have created a climate of fear and insecurity, particularly among the Christians. Representatives of Christians and minorities are exposed to the grave risk of communally motivated verbal abuse and physical attacks.

Worst, the governments of Orissa and Karnataka continued to deny the extent of violence prevalent, and failed to face up to their minimum responsibility of securing the life of their people. If India has to live up to any human rights standards, it must show a clear political will to combat attacks on Christians: speaking out strongly, and at all levels of governance; publicly acknowledging the seriousness of the issue; and the need to take concerted action. This is not ‘hooliganism’ or ‘anti-social’ activity, motivated by some hooligans and anti-social elements. It is a violent, and apparently a communal attack, carried out by organized groups. Crimes which are communally motivated must be effectively and thoroughly investigated and prosecuted as such. Treating communally induced violence and brutality on an equal footing with cases that have no communal overtones would be to turn a blind eye to the specific nature of the acts that are particularly destructive of fundamental rights.

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