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India denies visa to controversial USCIRF teams, MEA says the ‘prejudiced’ body has no locus standi in country’s affairs

The external affairs minister added that the USCIRF has been known to make prejudiced, inaccurate and misleading observations regarding the state of religious freedom in India

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has clarified that the government had denied visas to controversial US Congressional body – USCIRF teams that had sought to visit India in connection with issues related to religious freedom.

In a letter on June 1, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar replied to BJP MP Nishikant Dubey stating, “We have denied a 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.”

Earlier, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had raised the observations against United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Parliament in December 2019 after the body affiliated to US Congress had recommended to the US administration that India be designated a “country of particular concern”.

The minister added that the USCIRF has been known to make prejudiced, inaccurate and misleading observations regarding the state of religious freedom in India. We do not take cognisance of these pronouncements and have repudiated such attempts to misrepresent information related to India, the Minister added.

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Minister Jaishankar also noted that the MEA had earlier rejected the USCIRF’s statements as “inaccurate and unwarranted”. The Minister 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”.

USCIRF Annual Report on religious freedom

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an advisory body to the US Congress, in April had released its 2020 annual report, where it had recommended that the Trump administration classify India as a “country of particular concern”, along with other countries like Pakistan, North Korea, China and Saudi Arabia.

The USCIRF claimed that India was “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations”. The report also stated that the national government allowed violence against minorities and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence.

The report recommended that the Trump administration should impose targeted sanctions on Indian government allegedly responsible for severe violations of religious freedom by freezing those individuals’ assets and barring their entry into the United States under human rights-related financial and visa authorities, citing specific religious freedom violations.

Interestingly, three out of nine commissioners at the USCIRF have dissented against the commission’s claim against India and have made separate qualifying notes to the report on India.

Responding to the tirade of USCIRF, the MEA had rejected claims made by them on religious freedom in the country and had referred it to as”biased and tendentious”.

USCIRF’s prejudice against India

The controversial US body has always been at the forefront of the misinformation campaign against the country. Ever since Narendra Modi returned back to power in 2019, the USCIRF has been meddling into India’s internal affairs by indulging in one-sided motivated propaganda against the Modi government.

The US congressional body emerged into the scene following the abrogation of Article 370 in the country with its misleading statements and continued to do so even during the implementation of historic Citizenship Amendment Act. It is notable here that the USCIRF has a history of fanning baseless rumours and leftist propaganda against India. They had also ranted against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, calling it a ‘dangerous turn in the wrong direction’.

Ironically, the USCIRF, which claims to be standing for religious freedom and rights, resorted to peddling false propaganda against Indian government on CAA, a law which was implemented to guarantee rights in the country by granting Indian citizenship.

The Indian government has time-and-again rejected the one-sided prejudiced observations made by the US body. India had earlier said the American body on international religious freedom has chosen to be guided only by its biases on a matter on which it has no locus standi.

The USCIRF is the commission that had recommended the denial of US visa to PM Modi when he was the CM of Gujarat. It had also threatened ‘sanctions’ against Home Minister Amit Shah ‘if the CAB was passed’.

Just weeks back, the self-proclaimed religious freedom body USCIRF, had indulged in a misinformation campaign by falsely claiming that coronavirus patients were being segregated on the basis of religious identity in an Ahmedabad hospital.

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