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‘India struggles to protect minority communities’

Washington: A US Congressional panel on religious freedom, which was instrumental in the visa ban on Narendra Modi, has said that despite its status as a pluralistic and secular democracy, India has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice to them.
In its latest annual report, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom has rued that the US has enforced its law on visa ban on foreign individuals involved in violation of religious freedom only once on Modi and as such it urged the State Department to expand such a visa ban.
Noting that International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) bars entry of individuals “responsible for or directly carried out… particularly severe violations of religious freedom”, USCIRF said: “this provision has been invoked only once: in March 2005, it was used to exclude the Chief Minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat state in India due to his complicity in riots in his state in 2002 that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,10 to 2,000 Muslims.” USCIRF had urged this denial of entry.
“USCIRF continues to urge the Departments of State and Homeland Security to develop a lookout list of aliens who are inadmissible to the US on this basis, and USCIRF has provided information about several such individuals to the State Department,” the report said. Running into more than 200 pages, USCIRF in its annual report also recommends that the visa ban for individuals involved in particularly severe violations of religious freedom be used more expansively.
“USCIRF is only aware of the visa ban being used just once – against the State Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. USCIRF supported and called for this decision, but it is highly likely that other violators of religious freedom applied for a visa to the United States over the past 15 years,” it said. A recent initiative of the IRF Office to ensure that people inadmissible under US law for religious freedom violations are denied entry is a useful first step.
The consular sections of all embassies should be trained on this requirement and directed that the application of this provision is mandatory, USCIRF said. In its report, USCIRF said despite India’s status as a pluralistic, secular democracy, the country has struggled to protect minority communities or provide justice when crimes occur due to a lack of political will, political corruption, and religious bias by government officials.
It recommended that the US government should integrate concern for religious freedom into bilateral contacts with India, at both the federal and provincial level, and encourage the strengthening of the capacity of state and central police to implement effective measures to prohibit and punish cases of religious violence and protect victims and witnesses. USCIRF also recommended US to urge India to boost training on human rights and religious freedom standards and practices for the police and judiciary, particularly in states and areas with a history or likelihood of communal violence. The US was also recommended to urge India to press states that have adopted anti-conversion laws to repeal or amend them to conform with internationally-recognized human rights standards; and encourage the establishment of an impartial body of interfaith religious leaders, human rights advocates, legal experts, and government officials to discuss and recommend actions to promote religious tolerance and understanding. (PTI)

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