Hindu pontiff slams US Commission visit to India

By: John Malhotra
Saturday, 13 June 2009, 15:01 (IST)
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Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi, one of the leading figures of Hinduism, on Friday, slammed the upcoming visit of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to India.

The Hindu pontiff, addressing an inter-religious meet between the Catholic and Hindus in Mumbai, warned against foreign nations interfering in the internal matters of the country. He was opposed to the tentative investigation by the Commission on the Kandhamal violence and Gujarat riots.

The annual report of the U.S. Congressional panel last month said "the Commission is planning to travel to India for the first time in June 2009" to closely examine and record the violations of freedom of religion.

Jayendra Saraswati, responding to the report, said it was an "intrusive mechanism of a foreign government to interfere in the internal affairs of this country."

"The Commission, assigned to hold meetings and scrutinize the religious freedom and restrictions in the country, must not be permitted to enter India," the 69th Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, said.

He reiterated that the "external interference into the internal affairs will be protested".

Church leaders, meanwhile, have kept their fingers crossed on the verdict of the U.S. advisory panel set to tour India within weeks. They hope the Commission can bring to light the growing violence on minorities and also the impunity of the wrongdoers.

Archbishop of Orissa Raphael Cheenath has also expressed hope on the visit which he said could be pivotal in restricting violence and ensuring the protection of minorities.

He wants the U.S. government-funded agency to put pressure on the Indian government to dutifully maintain the Rights enshrined in the Constitution

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