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ICC Note:

Earlier this week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, only a day after meeting with U.S. President Obama. During that time, Modi declared how religious freedom was part of the essence of India’s soul. Unfortunately, this is not the full truth. Coinciding with Modi’s visit to Washington, the U.S. Congress held a public hearing regarding the state of human rights in India. Among the human rights discussed was religious freedom. Experts, including ICC, contended that the status of religious freedom, especially for India’s Christian and Muslim communities, has deteriorated significantly since Modi came to power in 2014. As India and the U.S. continue to forge a deeper relationship, will religious freedom in India be a integral part of  U.S.-India relations?

6/10/2016 India (Christian Today) – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday insisted that religious freedom is enshrined in the country’s constitution, and that India is “a modern nation with freedom, democracy, and equality as the essence of its soul.”

He was speaking before a joint meeting of the US Congress in Washington, only the fifth Indian prime minister to do so. Modi, who took office in May 2014, told the room: “For my government, the constitution is its real holy book. And, in that holy book, freedom of faith, speech and franchise, and equality of all citizens, regardless of background, are enshrined as fundamental right.”

He continued: “All the 1.25 billion of our citizens have freedom from fear, a freedom they exercise every moment of their lives.”

Modi’s speech is notable because he was previously banned from entering the US under a law that makes foreign officials who are responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for visas.

In 2005, he was denied a visa in the wake of a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The report said he had supported Hindu extremists during the 2002 Gujarat riots that resulted in the deaths of between 790 and 2,500 Muslims.

In 2008, then-chair of the commission Felice Gaer urged the US to uphold the ban. She said at the time: “As official bodies of the government of India have found, Narendra Modi is culpable for the egregious and systematic human rights abuses wrought against thousands of India’s Muslims.

“Mr Modi must demonstrate to the State Department and to the American people why he – as a person found to have aided and abetted gross violations of human rights, including religious freedom – should now be eligible for a tourist visa.”

However, in September 2014 Modi made his first official state visit to the US as Prime Minister, and is now said to be on good terms with Barack Obama – publicly addressing the President on first name terms several times during his visit to India last year.

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