|PM turns his back and US discusses religion in
Washington , Sept.
19: A day after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee left
Washington for India, the United States Commission on International
Religious Freedom held a hearing on India and Pakistan, including a
special session on Kashmir.
The decision to hold the hearing within 24 hours of the Prime
Minister’s departure was “not a coincidence,” according to the
Commission’s director of communications, Lawrence J Goodrich. “While
we had no intention of causing any embarrassment to the Prime
Minister on his visit, we also timed it to gain maximum media
advantage by holding it just after he left Washington,” he told.
Chairing the hearings was Elliot Abrams, president, Ethics and
Public Policy Centre, Washington. The session on India included
Ainslie Embree of Columbia University, Arvind Sharma of McGill
University, Mumtaz Ali Khan of the Muslim Forum for Social Justice
and John Dayal of the All India Christian Council.
While Embree gave an overview of the religious situation,
including how Hindus view conversion, Sharma specifically spoke on
the Hindu view of conversion and religious freedom, pointing out
that most Hindus were against conversion. He said the problem
occurred with Western thinking that assumed that a man could only
follow one religion.
He pointed out that a Hindu does not mind if you pray to Allah or
Jesus; what he minds is if you stop worshipping Hindu gods to
worship other religions’ gods. Khan said that Muslims suffered from
a series of disabilities, marginalised due to poverty and
illiteracy. She said that under the Bharatiya Janata Party regime,
the sense of insecurity had increased though Muslims in India do
look up to Vajpayee.
There was also a session on the plight of minorities in Pakistan,
followed by a situation analysis hearing on India and Pakistan.
During the last session, the speakers took pains to point out the
difference between India and Pakistan, stating that while in India
the minorities were protected by laws but their implementation was
weak, in Pakistan.