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U.S. Religious Freedom Panel Denied Visas to Visit India

WASHINGTON (RNS) Indian government officials have denied visas to commissioners of a U.S. religious freedom watchdog panel for the second time since 2001.
Members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF) were forced to cancel their plans to assess religious freedom in India. Panelists were scheduled to leave on June 12, and have been trying to obtain Indian visas for the past seven years.
Nina Shea, a commissioner, said it is troublesome that the Indian authorities are so defensive about exposing potential religious violence in the world’s largest democracy.
“I believe at the root of this, they want to cover it up,” she said. “They have something to hide.”
Hindu organizations in India are reportedly suspicious of the panel’s intentions, according to an Indian news article that was forwarded to USCIRF from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. The panel’s visit to India is “an attack on our religious sovereignty,” a spokesperson of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, a right-wing Hindu organization, told the Navbharat Times.
Commissioners had planned to travel to Gujarat, Karnataka and Orissa
— all areas of immediate concern for religiously motivated violence directed against minorities.
Shea said commissioners will look to experts and documentation to complete their report, though the trip would have been a chance for the Indian government to participate with preventive strategies at the local and national levels.
The Indian Embassy did not return phone calls.
By Lindsay Perna
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • nnmns

    Apparently India realizes this is a meaningless, powerless little group that likes to travel around and be treated well. India has acted appropriately.
    This group adds no value to the US and is a non-productive budget item we should eliminate.
    If we want to study rights in other countries we should study all rights, especially perhaps freedom of the press and women’s rights (since they seem to suffer more than, say, men’s rights) and the right to a living wage and safe air, water and food. Oh, and the right to control one’s fertility. Then someplace after those rights and various others should come religious rights, and of course the right to not be religious right along with them.
    Just concentrating on religious rights to the exclusion of so many others makes us look like we’ve got our heads in imaginary clouds.

  • pagansister

    It is India’s right to deny Visa’s, and I would think that after being turned down twice, they’d realise that they aren’t wanted. Obviously India sees no value in having them snoop around.

  • Henrietta22

    Why does this group believe that there is religious violence going on? They don’t even mention what violence they are speaking of. Why does this group from America think that pushing into India to check on their religious habits is o.k.? Would we like India to come here and check us out? Wouldn’t we tell them to get lost.

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