“On June 17, 2014, more than 50 village councils in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh adopted a resolution banning all ‘non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers, and speeches’ in their communities. The Christian minority community has been dramatically affected: the ban effectively has criminalized the practice of Christianity for an estimated 300 Christian families in the region one day after a mob, which included members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, seriously injured six Christians in the village of Sirciguda. Since the ban was implemented, Christians in Bastar district reportedly have been subjected to physical assaults, denial of government services, extortion, threats of forced expulsion, denial of access to food and water, and pressure to convert to Hinduism,” the letter read.
While India’s Ministry of External Affairs has continued to say that these incidents of religious persecution are “aberrations
,” the comments of this VHP leader are further evidence of the hostility that Christians and other religious minorities face in the Bastar District and throughout India.
Date March 6th 2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Indian government has once again failed to issue the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) visas to investigate the status of religious freedom in India. This denial of entry comes quickly on the heels of a congressional letter signed by eight senators and 26 congressmen asking the Prime Minister of India to make the protection of religious minorities a top priority.
USCIRF was created to monitor religious freedom abroad as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. Their trip was scheduled for March 4 with the support of the US State Department and the US Embassy in New Delhi. Traveling to the country is a critical part of USCIRF’s mission to accurately assess the status of religious minorities in that country.
Robert P. George, the Chairman of USCIRF stated, “We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government’s denial, in effect, of these visas. As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit.” He continued, “USCIRF has been able to travel to many countries, including those that are among the worst offenders of religious freedom, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, and Burma. One would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency than have these nations, and would welcome the opportunity to convey its views directly to USCIRF.”
This latest action increases the concern that the Indian government is not serious about protecting religious minorities in their country.
Nate Lance, ICC’s Advocacy Manager, stated, “USCIRF and their mission are critical to assessing religious freedom around the world. Vital to their mission is the ability to travel and investigate the situation on the ground for religious minorities. It is disappointing that on the heels of a congressional letter stressing the need to make protections of religious minorities a priority, that they would deny USCIRF entry into the country. I am deeply troubled that we now have more evidence that the Indian government is shirking their responsibility to protect religious minorities in accordance with their own constitution.”