Got news? Religious freedom and India

indian20churches_p923123As you would imagine, I have -- since my return from Bangalore and New Delhi -- been especially sensitive to news reports with India datelines. At the same time, I am always interested in coverage of human rights issues, especially those linked to religious freedom and the rights of minority groups. Call me an old-fashioned liberal. Thus, this news report caught my eye. We'll discuss the source in a moment. For now, just read the exerpt:

India has rebuffed a U.S. government watchdog group tasked with monitoring religious liberty abroad by denying entry visas for the group's planned visit.

A delegation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom intended to discuss conditions with officials in India, which has seen recent outbreaks of violence against religious minorities, especially Christians. The Indian embassy in Washington did not deliver the visas necessary for the delegation's June 12 departure, however, and has not offered any official explanation for the decision. ...

India is the only democracy to have blocked a visit by USCIRF, which had been requesting entry since 2001. More than 20 other countries, including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia, have allowed the commission to enter.

Now, this is amazing, even stunning news. It is, of course, linked the controversial 2007 riots in the state of Orissa. Click here for some GetReligion material on that, including a New York Times report that drew protests from Hindu groups.

So why were the visas denied?

The Times of India reported June 17 that prominent Hindu leader Shankaracharya Jayendra Sarawati had demanded that USCIRF not be allowed into the country, labeling the organization an "intrusive mechanism of a foreign government which is interfering with the internal affairs of India."

The American branch of the Hindu World Council also had bristled at the idea of a USCIRF visit to India, calling it "incomprehensible" and accusing the United States of lumping India, whose constitution guarantees freedom of religion, with countries such as Pakistan, Iran and Cuba.

Now, if you search Google news for the terms "religious," "freedom," "India" and "visas" you will find quite a bit of coverage of this. After all, there is all kinds of on-the-record material available about this shocking turn of events, both here in the United States and, obviously, in mainstream news in India.

But when you get your Google results, you will notice that all of the coverage is on the other side of the world, when it comes to mainstream media. And here in America, this seems to be another one of those strange cases where human-rights issues linked to religion somehow fall into that strange nowhere land called "conservative news."

The report quoted above, after all, is of a major U.S. government agency. But the report comes from Baptist Press.

Did I miss mainstream coverage elsewhere?

Just asking.

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