India denied visa to members of USCIRF who slammed BJP-led government for its increasing religious intolerance
Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in a letter to BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, (shared on June 1) said that the government denied visa to members of the US agency called the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), who wanted to visit India with regard to issues related to the country’s religious freedom. MEA minister said, “We have denied visa to USCIRF teams that have sought to visit India in connection with issues related to religious freedom, as we do not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.”
Jaishankar’s letter was a response to Nishant Dubey’s inquiry over government’s action against the USCIRF’s move seeking sanctions against Home Minister Amit Shah under the case of implementation of Citizen Amendment Act. The BJP MP raised the query during the Winter session of Lok Sabha in 2019.
In April, the US non-governmental body published a detailed report slamming India for its increasing intolerance towards religious minorities by highlighting surge in targeted assaults in 2019 and “rising Islamophobia”.USCIRF had said religious freedom in India had seen a “drastic turn downward”. The organisation ranked India among the nations including Pakistan, North Korea, China and Saudi Arabia, among others, as “countries of particular concern”, criticised it for “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act”.
It also recommended the US government to “impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and/ or barring their entry into the United States… citing specific religious freedom violations”. Though the USCIRF’s opinions does not reflect the views of the US government or the US Congress.
MEA minister criticised the organisation as ‘prejudiced, inaccurate and misleading’ which in his opinion made had no authority to make observations regarding the state of religious freedom in India. He said, “We do not take cognisance of these pronouncements and have repudiated such attempts to misrepresent information related to India.” Jaishankar added that India “will not accept any external interference or pronouncement on matters related to our sovereignty and the fundamental rights of our citizens that are guaranteed by the Constitution”.