NEW DELHI: Hardening its stand against United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (
), the government has justified denying visa to members of the bipartisan US body to visit India last year and questioned its locus standi to comment on Indian citizens’ fundamental right to religion.
In a letter to BJP’s LS member Nishikant Dubey, external affairs minister
attacked the USCIRF, whose members include US lawmakers, for categorising India as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) in its 2020 report which said the country was “engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations”.
Jaishankar said the government denied visas to USCIRF teams in connection with issues related to religious freedom after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament last year.
During the winter session of Parliament, Dubey had raised the issue of USCIRF seeking sanctions against
home minister Amit Shah
for the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The USCIRF has been known to make prejudiced, inaccurate, and misleading observations regarding the state of religious freedom in India, the minister said. “We do not take cognizance of these pronouncements and have repudiated such attempts to misrepresent information related to India,” he said.
He said the MEA had rejected the body’s remarks in this regard as inaccurate and unwarranted. “We have also 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,” he said.
He also assured the BJP MP that India will not accept any external interference or pronouncement on its sovereignty and fundamental rights of its citizens. Last year, the USCIRF had said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 would be a “dangerous turn in wrong direction” and sought American sanctions against Shah if the bill is passed.