India Blocks Visas For US Religious Freedom Monitors


India has reportedly denied visas to U.S.-based religious freedom monitors. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said that its members were denied visas while attempting to visit the country and monitor religious freedom.

The development comes after the USCIRF had listed India as a country that needed monitoring due to alleged religious freedom violations in its 2015 annual report, reports Religion News Service.  

USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George expressed dismay that India denied the visas, noting that “a pluralistic, non-sectarian and democratic state” should not have denied access to monitors of religious freedom. 

The USCIRF had reportedly listed India as a country with chronic religious violence, saying in its report that “religiously motivated and communal violence reportedly have increased for three consecutive years.”

After Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi was elected in 2014, concerns emerged about more religious tension as his Hindu Nationalist party took power in the country, reports The New York Times.

The controversy surrounding religious freedom in India reportedly spiked after a Muslim man was allegedly attacked by a mob for eating beef, a practice forbidden by Hindus, in the capital last year.

Jakob D. Roover, a professor at Belgium's Ghent University, noted that India may consider the USCIRF’s attempt to monitor the country to be an intrusive promotion of American religious beliefs.

“It seeks to spread Protestant-Christian values around the world but does so under the guise of promoting and protecting human rights that are ‘universally held sacred,’” said Roover.

“One would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency than these nations, and would welcome the opportunity to convey its views directly to the USCIRF,” George said in a statement.

The organization expressed optimism that despite the tenuous religious climate, it would be permitted to monitor the country in the future. 

“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,” said George.

Sources: The New York Times, USCIRF, Religion News Service / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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