The hearing titled 'Freedom of Religion or Belief in India: Rising Challenges & New Opportunities for US Policy,' on December 12 will examine challenges to religious freedom and explore opportunities for US policymakers to encourage the protection of freedom of religion or belief in India, Tenzin Dorjee, Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said on Tuesday.
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission created in 1998, that reviews religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.
India has previously rejected USCIRF report while maintaining that its Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion. India says the USCIRF has no locus standi to pass its comment on Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights.
"In recent years, religious extremists in India have intimidated, harassed, and sometimes murdered members of religious minorities or those who either abandon or change faiths," Dorjee said while announcing the hearing date.
"These actions represent a direct threat to the secular claims of the Indian Constitution and the fundamental rights of millions of Indians to practice their religion freely or live according to their beliefs without fearing violence," said Dorjee, the first ever Tibetan appointed to the USCIRF.
The USCIRF in its previous annual reports has been critical of the conditions of religious freedom in India and has alleged that it has been deteriorating.