India denies visas to US religious freedom panel
In April, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called for India to be designated a "country of particular concern" that would be subject to sanctions if they do not improve their record.
It called on the US to impose punitive measures, including visa bans, on Indian officials believed responsible and grant funding to civil society groups that monitor hate speech.
"In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault," the USCIRF said.
The commission added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Hindu nationalist government "allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence".The report also cited a law, passed late last year, which provides a path to citizenship for foreigners in the country, but not for Muslim migrants.
India Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar - who had previously criticised USCIRF's findings as "biased and tendentious" - said in a 1 June letter to a lawmaker from Modi's party that the panel has been denied entry to India.
"We have also denied visas to USCIRF teams that have sought to visit India in connection with issues related to religious freedom," he said in the letter seen by Reuters.
Jaishankar also stated the government saw no grounds for a foreign entity to make judgements on Indian affairs.
Tensions between India's religious communities have given rise to mass violence in the country, particularly clashes and riots between Hindus and Muslims claiming the lives of thousands over the past decades.
In recent years, Modi's government has been accused of stoking Islamophobia and following an anti-Muslim legislative agenda.