India has rightly disallowed a proposed visit by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which wanted to “discuss and assess religious freedom” conditions in the country. This is not the first time that the commission has been denied the permission to visit; in 2001 and 2009, too, India had declined visas. Which also shows that both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress find the USCIRF as unnecessarily meddlesome.
The USCIRF, a bipartisan US government commission, has expressed its displeasure at New Delhi’s decision. It has said that it would pursue a visit to India against the backdrop of “ongoing reports from religious communities, civil society groups and NGOs that conditions for religious freedom in India have been deteriorating since 2014.”
This is unwarranted interference in our domestic affairs. We also know about the “ongoing reports” emanating from the US regarding the Hindus and Sikhs facing racism; some Sikhs, mistaken for Muslims, have even been assaulted. Then there are allegations that blacks are discriminated against; often they are attacked, even killed, by cops. The USCIRF busybodies would be better advised to put their own house in order rather than lecture us about tolerance.
The USCIRF bid to visit India comes close on the heels of a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by 34 US Congressmen last week in which they talked about the “increasing intolerance and violence” against minorities in India. In the letter, the lawmakers said, “We urge your government to take immediate steps to ensure the fundamental rights of religious minorities are protected and the perpetrators of violence are held to account.”
What the American lawmakers seem to ignore is that the fundamental rights of religious minorities, as of all others, are protected by the Indian Constitution. In fact, religious minorities enjoy greater rights and Hindus do, as they can run educational institutions which the majority cannot.
This is not to say that there are no unpleasant incidents in India. It is, however, important to note that government, federal or state, in our country has ever justified or even condoned any attack on minorities. The judiciary ensures justice for victims and the media highlights wrongdoing.
So, if the USCIRF or US lawmakers want to do something meaningful, they should visit Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the Islamic nations with which their country has special relationships. The USCIRF’s own 2015 report on Saudi Arabia said, “The government privileges its own interpretation of Sunni Islam over all other interpretations and prohibits any non-Muslim public places of worship in the country. It continues to prosecute and imprison individuals for dissent, apostasy, blasphemy, and sorcery, and a new 2014 law classifies blasphemy and advocating atheism as terrorism. In addition, authorities continue to repress and discriminate against dissident clerics and members of the Shi’a community. Based on these severe violations of religious freedom, USCIRF again recommends in 2015 that Saudi Arabia be designated as a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).”
Pakistan, too, is increasingly becoming more jihadist and intolerant. The USCIRF’s 2015 report said, “Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as ‘countries of particular concern.’ In the past year, the government grappled with a challenging security environment and initiated efforts to fight the Pakistani Taliban. However, despite these efforts, Pakistan continued to experience chronic sectarian violence targeting Shi’a Muslims, Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, and Hindus. Despite positive rulings by the Supreme Court, the government failed to provide adequate protection to targeted groups or to prosecute perpetrators and those calling for violence. Pakistan’s repressive blasphemy laws and anti-Ahmadi laws continue to violate religious freedoms and to foster a climate of impunity. USCIRF again recommends in 2015 that Pakistan be designated a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has recommended since 2002.”
Therefore, it would be better for the USCIRF if it concentrates on countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which are constitutionally, legislatively, and doctrinally committed to the supremacist ideology of Islamism.