India has justified denying visa to a US government delegation, saying that it does not see the need for allowing a foreign entity to pass judgment on the state of religious freedom in the country. On Thursday,
the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) announced that India had blocked its fact-finding mission from entering the country, which planned to investigate reports of discrimination against religious minorities in India.
The Indian Embassy in Washington said that it had seen the commission’s statement “regretting” the refusal of visa to its delegation but it did not feel the need to reconsider its decision. “There is no change in the policy of the government of India with respect to such visits,” the embassy said.The embassy insisted that “India is a vibrant pluralistic society” and its Constitution guaranteed fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion.
“We do not see the locus standi (legal standing) of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pass its judgment and comment on the state of Indian citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.”
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In its latest report on India, the commission also recognised India as a pluralistic, secular democracy, but pointed out that the country “has long struggled to protect minority religious communities or provide justice when crimes occur, which perpetuates a climate of impunity”.
The commission also noted that “incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence reportedly have increased” since the present government came to power.