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The government has denied visas to teams of a non-governmental advisory body to the US Congress after its denouncement of the state of religious freedom in India. In April, the USCIRF had recommended to the US administration that India be designated a “country of particular concern”.

In his letter to BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, Jaishankar wrote, “We have 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.”

It was the first time since 2004 — when its recommendation came against the backdrop of the Gujarat riots in 2002 — that the USCIRF had sought this. The USCIRF’s annual report had also named Home Minister Amit Shah twice, once recalling that he had referred to migrants as “termites” to be eradicated.

Jaishankar noted that the MEA had earlier rejected the USCIRF’s statements as “inaccurate and unwarranted”. He said India “will not accept any external interference or pronouncement on matters related to our sovereignty and the fundamental rights of our citizens that are guaranteed by the Constitution”.

The USCIRF’s views are not meant to represent the opinion of the US administration or the US Congress.

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