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Sunday May 25, 9:36 AM

Hindus, Christians welcome Bansal's appointment to USCIRF

By Vasantha Arora, Indo-Asian News Service
Washington, May 25 (IANS) Hindu and Christian groups in the U.S. have welcomed the appointment of Preeta Bansal, a constitutional law expert, as a commissioner to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Jayachand Pallakonda, president of Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of North America, said: "I am very impressed by Bansal's law background.

"I hope Bansal also has a good understanding of the religious issues confronting South Asia especially India and that she would be a strong voice to speak out against persecution of religious minorities there."

Shrikumar Poddar of the Hindu Vaishnav Centre for Enlightenment in Michigan said he spoke with Bansal Friday night after she was informed of her selection.

He said Bansal's background and understanding of U.S. constitutional law would help articulating her advocacy for free speech and freedom of religion for all people in the world and not just in the U.S.

John Prabhudoss, chairman of the governmental affairs committee for the Federation of Indian American Christian Organisations of North America, said he was looking forward to working with Bansal in highlighting pressing issues such as "the plight of Kashmiri Pandits at the hands of Kashmiri Muslims and the plight of the Christian and Muslim populations at the hands of the Hindutva ideologues in India".

Prabhudoss is very appreciative of the commission's past work in this area. However, he said he was concerned that some "Hindutva extremist elements in the U.S. might try to influence Bansal's opinion".

He expressed the hope that Bansal would be strong enough to reject any such attempts during her tenure at the USCIRF.

There are over two million Hindus in the U.S. and Canada. It was brought to the USCIRF's attention that there was no Hindu representation on the commission. Jewish, Islamic and Bahai faiths were represented in the commission.

Senate Democratic leader Thomas Daschle's appointment of Bansal fulfils that gap.

©Copyright 2003, Indo-Asian News Service (India)

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