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India Was Right To Deny Visas To US Commission Wanting To Review 'Deteriorating' Religious Freedom

11/03/2016 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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The US has built up quite a reputation for meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. One of their methods is to investigate the religious freedoms, or lack thereof, in other countries. India recently denied visas to members of a federal government commission known as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The delegation had a visit planned to India for reviewing alleged violations of religious freedom. The Modi government, however, argues that the United States has no locus-standi (legal standing).

The Indian embassy is correct to say that the US has no right to pass any judgments on the state of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected fundamental rights.

According to the official website of USCIRF, it is a federal government commission:

"USCIRF's principal responsibilities include reviewing, through the lens of international human rights law, the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and making policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission with commissioners appointed by the President and the leaders in both Houses of Congress."

Upon being denied visas to India, USCIRF issued a press release, quoting chairman Robert P. George:

"We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government's denial... As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit. USCIRF has been able to travel to many countries, including those that are among the worst offenders of religious freedom, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, and Burma. One would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency... USCIRF will continue to pursue a visit to India, given the ongoing reports from religious communities, civil society groups, and NGOs that the conditions for religious freedom in India have been deteriorating since 2014."

In response to the USCIRF's press release, the Indian Embassy at Washington DC responded with the following:

"There is no change in the policy of the Government of India with respect to such visits. India is a vibrant pluralistic society founded on strong democratic principles. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion. We do not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pass its judgment and comment on the state of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights."

This is why I believe that the Indian government is absolutely right for having taken the stand it has.

Constitutionally protected rights of Indian citizens

The Indian embassy is correct to say that the US has no right to pass any judgments on the state of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected fundamental rights. Article 15 (part of Right to Equality), enshrined in the Constitution of India, prohibits any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 25 to 28 (Right to Freedom of Religion), provides freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. The implementation of the 'law of the land' is the primary responsibility of the Indian government and the judiciary.

The US has no jurisdiction whatsoever

The USCIRF's press release says, "India should have the confidence to allow our visit." Why do we need a certificate from the USCIRF about the status of religious freedom in our country? USCIRF is not an international body mandated by the UN (United Nations) or any other international law, but a government body of a foreign state. It has no jurisdiction whatsoever in the internal affairs of a foreign sovereign democratic country. It is not the United States' business to investigate, learn about or research any incidents that have taken place in other sovereign countries. The government of India is answerable to the Indian courts and not to USCIRF. Our judiciary is more than competent enough to uphold the rule of law and check any transgression from constitutional principles.

We certainly don't need lessons on religious tolerance from a foreign country infamous for extra-constitutional abuses and killings of racial and religious minorities.

The above mentioned press release gives the example of countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who have allowed the USCIRF to visit. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may be the 'no questions asked' type of allies; India, on the other hand, is not in the business of selling its constitutional sovereignty to 'world powers'. India is not just any democracy; we are the world's largest democracy. We certainly don't need lessons on religious tolerance from a foreign country infamous for extra-constitutional abuses and killings of racial and religious minorities.

Transparency and openness?

A democratic nation must definitely be open and transparent. Scholars and journalists are welcome to visit India and study whatever they feel like. Unlike China and Pakistan, we don't bar international media outlets from reporting sensitive news. However, allowing a US commission, which in fact is a government body of an alien state, to conduct a 'fact finding' mission to India would be ridiculing the constitutional sovereignty of India and its courts. What would they say to any foreign commission on racial discrimination to check on the offences committed in the US?

People in glass houses...

The so-called world's greatest democracy itself needs a lesson or two on how to safeguard the rights of racial and religious minorities. As far as intolerance is concerned, we don't need lessons from the US government. The 2014 Hate Crime Statistics Report released by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) presents a pretty dismal picture of the current state of affairs in the United States. It seems like the US is slowly adopting the role of an international grandma, preaching about democratic values around the globe. Check your own backyard, you will find a lot of racial and religious offences to be investigated and reported to the President of the United States. USCIRF is doing nothing but wasting American taxpayers' money on illogical foreign trips.

The kind of 'intolerance' your presidential candidates and other leaders are perpetuating against the entire Islamic race is much worse than anything taking place here.

The kind of 'intolerance' your presidential candidates and other leaders are perpetuating against the entire Islamic race is much worse than anything taking place here. Your presidential candidate Donald Trump's hateful statements against Islam openly mock the United States' constitution.

Dear United States, live and let live.

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