ASIA/INDIA - Statistics on communal violence: debate on the law for the protection of minorities

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - More than 4,000 episodes of violence in four years, 648 people died and 11 thousand were injured in the 24 states of the Indian Federation: these statistics released by the Indian Bishops on violence against religious minorities in the country are very significant. The complaint comes as the "National Advisory Council" published a new draft law that aims to prevent communal violence and protect ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities. As the spokesman of the Episcopal Conference, Fr. Babu Joseph Karakombil explains to Fides the document titled "'Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011" intends " to create a framework for prevention and control of communal and sectarian violence that has caused so much suffering to the nation in recent years". Also, the text of the law, endorsed by the federal government and appreciated by the Indian bishops, "provides assistance and compensation to the victims", and therefore "is a useful tool for building harmony and social peace in India". This position is shared by churches and minority religious communities, human rights organizations, associations working for the legality and the rule of law. The law is however rejected by the opposition parties, led by Baratija Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist party and supporter of the Hindu extremist movements, perpetrators of violence. While the debate rages in the country, the Bishops have provided Fides a statistical summary of the violence, to give the idea of the size and depth of the phenomenon: "The statistics must be a burden on the current debate, to highlight the 'urgency of the law", underlines Fr. Babu. The period taken into consideration is 2005-2009: In this period 648 people were killed, 11,278 injured in 4,030 incidents of communal violence. On average, 130 people died and 2,200 were injured each year. Incidents were reported from 24 of the 35 states and Union territories (the states in the Northeast are immune). The maximum number of incidents occurred in Maharashtra (700), followed by Madhya Pradesh (666) and Uttar Pradesh (645). 4 states, accounted for 64% of all deaths: Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of deaths. A total of 176 people died in these incidents; another 2,171 were injured; followed by Madhya Pradesh (107 deaths and 1,708 injured people), Maharashtra (77 people died and 2,012 were injured), Orissa witnessed 52 deaths and 234 people were injured. In the period under review, the worst year was 2008, with 943 cases of communal violence, especially in Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 23/092011)