USCIRF Hearing - March 10, 2011

Testimony and Resources

Question 1Question 2 | Question 3 | Additional Evidence 1 | Additional Evidence 2Additional Evidence 3 | Additional Evidence 4Additional Evidence 5

1. Question posed: Anti-Conversion Laws – The effect they have on the atmosphere in the states that have instituted the laws, the rate of arrests and/or convictions because of these laws, how many people are effected and the big picture analysis and implications of the laws.
"Freedom of Religion Laws” or “Anti-Fraudulent Conversion Laws,” which in the question posed have been incorrectly characterized as “Anti-Conversion Laws,” have seldom been enforced, have not affected the freedom or ability of individuals to convert, and have not been effective in protecting vulnerable populations from being forcibly or fraudulently converted as a result of lack of enforcement.
  1. Freedom of Religion laws were primarily formulated to prevent vulnerable populations or populations without power, such as children and those that are poor, uneducated, and illiterate from being preyed upon and falling victim to predatory efforts seeking religious conversion in exchange for or with the allurement of medical and humanitarian aid, education, or employment.
  2. These laws have seldom been enforced and few people are arrested for proselytizing.
    1. In the thousands of Christian websites that demonize Hindus and Hinduism as well as the anti-fraudlent conversion laws, one may find a rare allegation of the misuse of the law or of false arrests, but only a few arrests on alleged false charges have been reported by the Indian media in the recent past
      1. Any reports of alleged arrests, not false arrests, are found only on Christian websites, but not in the traditionally liberal, pro-minority daily English newspapers or vernacular newspapers
      2. On the Christian websites where such reports are found, the term Hindu is almost always accompanied by the adjectives “radical,” “extremists”, “violent,” etc. [1]
    2. An Egyptian sailor aboard a foreign vessel was arrested by the Navi Mumbai police for distributing inflammatory religious literature during a stopover in November 2010. [2]
  3. All Indians enjoy and exercise their freedom to change religions despite the daily drumbeat of internationally organized campaigns of Christian missionaries that allege that the freedom to spread their message or ability to convert is being curtailed in India.
    1. Most conversions these days are to Christianity, though there are some publicized conversions to Buddhism [3], and to Islam, singly as in the case of Periyar Dasan [4], and en masse as it happened in Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu in 1981
    2. Thousands of missionaries, both local and foreign, are entering and working in India -- sometimes officially on missionary visas, but often times fraudulently on visitor visas.
    3. Many foreign missionaries are openly proselytizing, even holding mega rallies (eg. Benny Hinn’s rallies in 2004/2005). [5]
  4. Big picture: While the intent of anti-fraudulent conversion laws is to protect against conversions by force, fraud, and coercion, and also protect genuine conversions, the effect is futile to neutral on curbing fraudulent conversions and positive in protecting genuine conversions.
  5. HAF statements on predatory proselytization and religious freedom [6]
2a. Question posed: Arrests, indictments, and convictions/sentences for crimes perpetrated during the Orissa and Gujarat violence and the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots. Has the culture of impunity in India or in some states improved/worsened?
The Indian law enforcement infrastructure’s capacity for investigating and prosecuting crime, not just religiously-motivated crime, is not without its limitations. However, we find the allegation that the system’s “will” to investigate and prosecute cases of religiously-motivated violence and harassment as “severely limited” both suspect and not supported by evidence. We also find the use of the label -- “a culture of impunity” -- problematic because there is copious evidence of comprehensive investigation and arrest by law enforcement, as well as prosecution and conviction by courts of those who have allegedly abetted or committed religiously-motivated crimes.
  1. Growing concern over the criminalization of politics, and the willingness and ability of politicians and political parties to jeopardize professional police inquiries. For a fuller exposition on the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian police forces for the work that MIT did in training Indian police. [7, 8]
  2. However, law enforcement have shown to pursue cases diligently, including cases of domestic terrorism and as later documented, in Orissa and Gujarat.
    1. Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, accused of terrorism, was recently been arrested [9]
    2. Swami Aseemanand accused of terrorism, was recently been arrested [10]
    3. Some Indian Muslims have been arrested for their involvement in terrorist related activities as well, and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is banned as a terrorist organization [11]
2b. Question Posed: Arrests, Indictments, and convictions/sentences for crimes perpetrated during the Orissa and Gujarat violence and the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots. Has the culture of impunity in India or in some states improved/worsened?
While we concur that the Indian law enforcement infrastructure’s capacity for investigating and prosecuting crime, not just religiously-motivated crime, is not without its limitations, we find the allegation that the system’s “will” to investigate and prosecute cases of religiously-motivated violence and harassment as “severely limited” and the use of the label “a culture of impunity” both suspect and not supported by evidence. India has not had any major religiously motivated violence in the past two years, despite the gruesome terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 that killed at least 164 and injured more than 300. In regard to the Orissa violence of 1999, and 2007/2008, the Gujarat violence of 2002, and the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, there is copious evidence of comprehensive investigation and arrest by law enforcement, as well as prosecution and conviction by courts of those who have allegedly abetted or committed religiously-motivated crimes.
  1. Orissa
    1. Dara Singh/Graham Staines case: The Indian Supreme Court confirmed the life sentence for the chief accused, Dara Singh. [12]
    2. In response to the violence in Orissa, after the assassination of Swami Lakshmananda in December 2007, the state government and federal agencies have investigated the violence and arrested and are in the process of prosecuting those suspected of being culpable.
      1. Kandhamal violence -- 2008: Of the total 828 cases filed at different police stations relating to Kandhamal riots, convictions have taken place in 56 cases; [13]
      2. The violence in the district, it is argued by spokespersons for Hindu groups, is because of predatory proselytization activities, leading to clashes among competing tribes;
      3. Evidence for the aggressive conversion campaigns in evident in the growth of the Christian population in Kandhamal district -- from 6 per cent in 1970 to 27 per cent in 2001. [14]
  2. Gujarat
    1. 2002 pre-meditated burning of train and ensuing riots: A State Court delivered the verdict on the Godhra train burning by Muslims in 2002 that killed 59 Hindus. [15]
    2. Following the train burning: 1180 people were killed in the riots that followed the burning down of the train. Of the 1180 killed nearly 800 were Muslims, and the remaining Hindus. [16]
    3. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court of India, interviewed and then exonerated Chief Minister Narendra Modi of being complicit in encouraging the riots following the Godhra train burning. [17]
    4. SIT investigation also uncovered evidence that some of the advocates on behalf of Muslims to have deliberately manipulated or falsified evidence [18]. Amongst those accused, Teesta Setalvad, who was invited by USCIRF to submit testimony on the Gujarat riots. [19]
  3. Anti-Sikh Riots
    1. About 3,400 Sikhs were murdered following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Ironically, when a Sikh is now the Prime Minister of India, a U.S. Court has summoned his party, the Congress Party, to answer charges [20]
    2. In 2009, the Delhi High Court said this about the riots and murders -- “Though we boast of being the world’s largest democracy and Delhi being its national capital, the sheer mention of the incidents of 1984 anti-Sikh riots in general and the role played by Delhi Police and state machinery in particular makes our heads hang in shame in the eyes of the world polity.” [21]
    3. Ten commissions and committees have so far inquired into the riots. [22]
    4. Local Congress Party leaders as well as some of the senior party leaders were indicted by the Nanavati Commission, which gave its verdict in 2005. [23]
  4. Other Regions
    1. In response to the purported attacks on Christians in the South Indian state of Karnataka, a fact-finding commission led by Justice Somasekhara said that neither the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, nor Hindu groups were directly or indirectly involved in instigating or carrying out the violence.
3. Question posed: The state of the police and judicial institutions to arrest and prosecute those who commit religiously-motivated crimes.
Despite its limitations, the Indian judicial system does deliver justice consistently to victims of religiously-motivated crimes and does punish perpetrators of religiously-motivated crimes.
  1. Indian judiciary is slow, and justice is often delayed, but not necessarily denied.
    1. The judiciary has systemic problems but moves forward, much like the United States’ judicial system.
    2. The Supreme Court passed its verdict on the Staines murder case, and under pressure from Indian Christian spokespersons, in an unprecedented changed some of the wording in its original verdict. [24]
    3. Examples:
      1. Twenty-five years after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, in which about 22,000 people are estimated to have died, a Bhopal court pronounced its verdict! Union Carbide agreed to pay $470 million to the Indian government in 1989 in an out-of-court settlement of civil claims brought against the company. Survivors, however, claim that they have either never received compensation or have only received payments of minimal amounts. See:
      2. The trials in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts took about 13 years. The Indian courts failed to punish the real culprits behind the blast, and it is reported that about 100 of those involved are still missing, including the main conspirators and masterminds of the attacks – Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim.The primary charge sheet (indictment) was framed nearly eight months after the incident in November 1993, and the court delivered judgment only on September 12, 2006.
      3. In the Safdar Hashmi murder case, a high level political murder, the criminals were punished after 15 years.
      4. In the Tandoori murder case, the accused -- Delhi Congress Leader Sushil Sharma -- was convicted after 8 years 6 months. He murdered Nayna Sahani and destroyed evidence by burning her body in a Delhi hotel.
      5. Even the Supreme Court of India is not immune to delays. Its much acclaimed judgment in the D.K. Basu case in 1996, known for its directives aimed to prevent custodial torture, took ten years to be reached.
  2. The Court System in India:
    1. There are about 10,000 courts in India:
      1. One Supreme Court
      2. 21 High Courts
      3. 3150 District Courts
      4. 4861 Munsiff and first class Magistrate courts
      5. 1964 second class Magistrate courts
      6. Many tribunals
    2. There were nearly 41 million cases pending in different district courts across the country in 2009 while there is a backlog of 3.4 million cases pending in State High Courts.
    3. There are about about 17 million (16,677,657) criminal cases pending before Magistrate courts.
    4. There are more than seven million (7,237,495) civil cases pending in various subordinate courts.
    5. As many as 70 percent of these cases are rural/agriculture related litigation from villagers. Some of these cases are more than 25 to 30 years old. The longer a case runs, the more expensive it becomes to pursue.
  3. Reasons for delays:
    1. The hopelessly inadequate number of judges and courts in the country.
    2. Successive Governments have not only failed to increase the numerical strength of judges and courts but have also been slow in filling up vacancies.
    3. The country's 21 High Courts have a combined strength of 725 judges; but there are 128 vacancies left to fill up.
    4. High courts are handling an overwhelming 3,400,000 cases.
    5. The incompetence and inefficiency of the judges and lawyers.
      1. In some law colleges in India students do not have to attend classes, teachers need not deliver lectures, and syllabi need not be followed.
    6. The habit of seeking and allowing adjournments by lawyers/judges
      1. Some lawyers seek adjournment unnecessarily to harass opposite parties and to extract money from clients. In government-related cases, adjournments are regularly sought to file affidavits because the offices of the Advocate General, the Attorney General and Solicitors General to the Central and State Governments are inadequately staffed and equipped.
    7. Endless amendment of laws -- Indian laws are constantly amended. As a result, it takes time to understand and explain the new provisions of law.
      1. The Income Tax Act, for example, has been amended over 4000 times since it came into force in 1961.
    8. Absence of work culture in the courts
      1. The arrears committee headed by Justice V. S. Mallimath (1990) -- identified various causes of accumulation of arrears of cases in the High Courts:
        1. Litigation explosion;
        2. Accumulation of first appeal;
        3. Inadequacy of staff attached to the High Court
        4. Inordinate concentration of work in the hands of some members of the Bar
        5. Lack of punctuality among judges
        6. Granting of unnecessary adjournments
        7. Indiscriminate closure of Courts
        8. Indiscriminate resort to writ jurisdiction
        9. Inadequacy of classification and granting of cases
        10. Inordinate delay in the supply of certified copies of judgments and orders etc. [25]
    9. Corruption at the highest levels: Recently, the post of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, the highest level officer in charge of pursuing corruption cases, was itself mired in corruption and politics. The Supreme Court made a stinging indictment of the process of selecting the CVC, and the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, accepted responsibility for the mess. [26]
      1. In another indictment, this time of the Supreme Court of India, the former Chief Justice of India, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, who is now the Chair of the National Human Rights Commission, is accused of enabling his family to accumulate unaccounted wealth and property. Justice Balakrishnan had in one of his public pronouncements argued that corruption is a form of human rights abuse. Ironically, this man now heads the National Human Rights Commission. [27]
Relevant National Law
  1. The right to propagate religion is guaranteed by Article 25 (1) of the Indian Constitution (Article 25. (1). Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.)
  2. Parliament considered in 1954 the Indian Conversion (Regulation and Registration) Bill and later in 1960 the Backward Communities (Religious Protection) Bill, both of which had to be dropped for lack of support.
    1. The Freedom of Religion Bill of 1979 was opposed by the Minorities Commission (Among the Indian minority religions, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Buddhism all propagate conversion. Jainism does not.)
Relevant State Law
  1. States/governments were not favourably disposed towards proselytism pre-Independence
    1. Before Indian independence Princely States enacted anti-fraudulent conversion legislation
      1. Raigarh State Conversion Act 1936
      2. Patna Freedom of Religion Act of 1942
      3. Sarguja State Apostasy Act 1945 and the Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act 1946
      4. Similar laws were enacted in Bikaner, Jodhpur, Kalahandi and Kota and many more were specifically against conversion to Christianity.
    2. The first post-independence state law was the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act of 1967, providing that no person shall “convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means.”
    3. Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968, also prohibited conversion by “force or allurement or by fraudulent means” and required registration of every case of conversion with the local state authorities.
    4. Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Indigenous Faith Act of 1978 similarly prohibited conversions by force or threats, including “threat of... divine displeasure or social excommunication.”
    5. In 2002, Tamil Nadu enacted an anti-fraudulent conversion law, but later repealed it.
    6. Gujarat and Rajasthan have enacted anti-fraudulent conversion laws as have Chattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh.
    7. In Stainislaus v. Madhya Pradesh & Ors (1977) considering the constitutional validity of the anti-fraudulent conversion laws of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court held that the right to propagate religion, guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution, should be interpreted as “not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets.”
Additional Evidence/Arguments
1. India's unique brand of secularism provides unprecedented religious accommodations to its religious minority populace, including pilgrimage subsidies by the government, autonomy from governmental intrusion in their respective religious institutions (excluding Hindu institutions, many of which remain under government control), as well as religion-based personal laws. Additionally, some religious communities have been classified as “backward communities,” and thus benefit from India’s generous affirmative action programs. Some state governments also have generous reservations for religious minorities, namely Christian and Muslim for government seats, government-related jobs and government-run educational systems.
  1. The Government of India subsidizes the Haj pilgrimage of Muslims
    1. India spent about $180 million in 2009 to send 160,000 Muslims to Mecca on the Hajj pilgrimage [28]
    2. India has made provisions for minorities to manage their own religious institutions as well as educational institutions; that India has separate civil laws for minorities, allowing minorities to practice their religious and cultural customs without hindrance (unlike in the U.S.)
  2. India has a national minorities commission as well as a national human rights commission, and a majority of Indian states have their own human rights and minorities commissions:
2. India's diverse religious representation in government, media, and other public institutions of influence and power.
  1. With more than 80 percent Hindus and only 12% Muslim, 2% Sikh, 2.35% Christian has:
    1. Sikh Prime Minister and Head of Government
    2. A Catholic major party leader Congress Party chief (the most powerful woman in India)
    3. Christian Defense Minister, and three other Ministers of State in the Central Government -- K.V. Thomas, Agatha Sangma and Vincent Pala;
    4. A Muslim Vice President and five Muslim Ministers in the Central Government
    5. Sikhs make up 10 to 15 percent of all ranks in the Indian Army, and 20 percent of its officers
    6. By way of comparative analysis, the Office of the President in the U.S. has never been held by a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or adherent of any specifically non-Christian religion (or woman) or an athiest. John F. Kennedy remains the only non-Protestant elected to the Office.
  2. India has an active, even aggressive group of spokespeople, representing Christianity, who have been criticized by fellow Christians themselves of misrepresenting the status of Indian Christians. P.N. Benjamin, of the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) has sent a document to USCIRF arguing, and providing evidence about purported attacks on Christians in the South Indian state of Karnataka (See:
3. India's historic and unrivaled ethos of religious pluralism. This religious pluralism is a direct extension of the inherent pluralistic teachings of Hinduism, and in turn, other Dharmic traditions borne of it, including Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. On the whole, religious communities have not only peacefully coexisted, but thrived in India.
  1. India is the birthplace of four major religions -- Hinduism (in its myriad forms), Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism;
    1. India is home to the third largest Muslim population in the world;
    2. The number of Christians in India in 2001 was 24 million, with three of India’s 28 states having a majority Christian population (Mizoram, Nagaland, and Meghalaya) -- see;
    3. There is a concentration of Christians in journalism as well as in other high profile areas;
    4. India's human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations are some of the most active in the world;
  2. India's indigenous religion, Hinduism and other Dharmic traditions, are the only ones in the world that have survived the onslaughts of the purveyors of aggressive, monopolistic, and supremacist religions, and predatory proselytization. Dharmic traditions, namely Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism do not generally proselytize or actively seek converts.
    1. See Pew Forum Report on Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa --
    2. See Past Genocides Against Native Americans --
  3. Despite being the majority:
    1. Indian Hindus have been driven out of their homes and their lives made difficult in Northeastern States (three Northeastern Indian states have Christian majorities);
    2. India has been targeted by Muslim, Christian, and Maoist extremists and terrorists, each year killing hundreds of Indian soldiers, policemen, and civilians.
  4. The listing of India under USCIRF’s “watch list” is an affront to the pluralistic ethos of India, and reflects the machinations of motivated, agenda-driven individuals and organizations, including Indian and Indian American Communists, to paint Hindus as the instigators and perpetrators of violence against minorities.
  5. As far back as 1893 Swami Vivekananda, addressing audiences at the First World Parliament of Religions, said: ““I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true...If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if some people still dream of the exclusive survival of their own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity them from the bottom of my heart...”
4. A tumultuous history of violence, subjugation of the religious majority, and forced or state-abetted conversion has not been erased from the collective conscience of Indians, and thus continues to color inter-religious relations. India first faced Islamist violence, dating as far back as the 8th century to the Mughal invasions through the mid-19th century under Mughal rule; then colonization by European ions that heavily promoted Christian proselytism and conversion through the demonization of Hinduism; and in modern times both domestic and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism over the past 60 years and unprecedented and aggressive foreign missionary activity within its borders.
  1. Historian and philosopher, Will Durant called the Islamic conquest of India, “...probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within.”
  2. Police forces Police forces are under extreme pressure and not geared to deliver effective national security or protection.
    1. India faces no less a threat than the United States from terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, which has links with fundamentalist organizations in Pakistan.
    2. The deadly attack on India's Parliament on December 13, 2001 was foiled, but since then there have been several assaults on prominent Hindu temples and other soft targets including the deadly attack in Mumbai in November 2008 that killed more than 160 people, and wounded more than 300.
    3. For a summary of terrorism and terrorist attacks in India (though not fully referenced), see --
    4. For a full list of terrorist and/or extremist groups in India, see --
    5. For an assessment of threats to India from terrorism, see --
5. India is geographically at the center of what many Christians have targeted as the “10-40 Window,” for a primarily “Western” nation-funded campaign of aggressive church-planting and conversion. Each year, millions of dollars and thousands of foreign missionaries are entering India and other targeted countries as tourists to engage in what can be characterized as nothing less than predatory proselytization.
  1. Church planting and conversion goes on as seen by the financial records and public reports of Christian groups in India:
    1. Houston-based Central India Christian Mission. In 2010 alone, its evangelical missionaries proselytized to over 320,000 people and converted more than 19,600 inhabitants in central India.
    2. October 2010, Joyce Meyer Ministries conducted a one week medical outreach in Kolkata. Over 2,200 people were treated and over 1,300 souls were saved. (
    3. Source Light Ministries
      1. 350 families witnessed to and Bible lessons left – most are interested; there is a great hunger for God’s Word among Hindus
      2. 10,000 people will be reached with the Gospel
      3. 10 new ADS will be established and 10 new churches planted and 2000 new students will be enrolled in 2011
      4. 8 new villages and areas reached, 700-800 people saved
      5. 25 new churches planted, 31 new Fellowship Groups started, 35 new prayer gatherings, and 452 people saved in the various ministries in 2010
      6. 25 child evangelists and 100 church planters are trained monthly
    4. These efforts sow the seeds of dissension, disaffection, conflict, and aggression where conversions lead to a myopic, non-pluralistic world view of religious supremacy.
    5. This is reflected even in the statement by Pope John Paul II, who proclaimed on his visit to India in 1999: “With the Church throughout the world, the Church in Asia will cross the threshold of the Third Christian Millennium marvelling at all that God has worked from those beginnings until now, and strong in the knowledge that just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the Third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent." (
Related Resources/Statements
  1. HAF condemns all violence, and seeks justice for all those who have suffered in religiously motivated riots.
  2. HAF condemns the violence against Hindus in the border districts of the Indian states of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh that has led to the mass flight of Hindus from those areas.
    1. In districts like Uttar Dinajpur and North and South 24 Parganas directly across from Bangladesh more and more villages which once had mixed Hindu-Muslim populations are now all Muslim or Muslim-dominated.
    2. Residents of Deganga, only 40 kilometers from the West Bengal capital of Kolkata, lived through an anti-Hindu pogrom last September [29]
  3. HAF seeks the resettlement of the nearly 350,000 Kashmir’s Hindu Pandits who were driven out from their homes in the 1980s.
    1. Their plight has been ignored by the Indian governments as well as human rights organizations.
    2. USCIRF held a hearing in 2000 [30] on the plight of these Hindus who are refugees in their own country. A decade later not much has changed for the Kashmiri Hindus.
    3. HAF urges another hearing on the plight of Kashmir Hindus.

25. Above summary on India’s justice system compiled from:;
Other relevant articles in this regard can be found at