06/17/2009, 00.00
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India does not allow entry to the USA Commision on international religious freedom in Orissa and Gua

by CT Nilesh
The Commission was to arrive in Delhi on the 12th of June, but they never received the necessary visa. Important Hindu personalities labeled the enquiry as an “interference in India’s internal affairs”. The Obama Administration do not press the issue.

Mumbay (AsiaNews) - The Indian Government did not issue the visas to the representatives of an American commission on International Religious Freedom who wanted to make an enquiry on the incidents that took place on Gujarat and Orissa.

The visit of the USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom). The two states of Gujarat and Orissa had been in the news recently for communal disorders. In the district of Kandhamal, last year there were wide spread riots, burning of churches, killing of people and displacement of entire villages. In the 2002 riots in Gujarat the Muslims were  under attack. 

The USCIRF, every year publishes a report pointing out the countries where violations of religious freedom had taken place. Before putting India in this list, the commission wanted to pay a visit, to interview people and to ascertain the facts.

A team of the commission was to arrive in Delhi on June 12 but they did not received the necessary visa. A USCIRF spokesperson said: “They knew we had the tickets for June 12 therefore  it is clear that they don’t want us to visit.” The Indian Embassy in Washington, that was supposed to issue the visa, referred all questions to New Delhi while acknowledging  that the USCIRF team had applied for visas. Government sources, without acknowledging that the visas had deliberately denied, it said that it was not the right time for such a visit.

Last week  in Mumbai an inter-religious meeting was held between Hindu and Catholic representatives, with the participation of Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. In this occasion, the leader of the Hindu delegation, Swami Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati, came out strongly against the proposed visit of the US commission team in India, as “an intrusive mechanism of a foreign government which is interfering with the internal affairs of India”, and said the team must not be allowed to enter the country.

The Obama administration did not press the issue given that the US undersecretary of state, William Burns was in New Delhi and its secretary of state, Hilary Clinton,  is going to visit India in July.


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