WASHINGTON: The United States Commission on International Religion Freedom (USCIRF) has sought sanctions against Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership if the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill is passed by the parliament, reported Scroll.in on Tuesday. Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill in India’s lower house on Monday amid raucous debate. Opposition parties stood against the proposed law that would, for the first time, create a legal pathway to grant Indian nationality on the basis of religion.
The bill was originally introduced in 2016 during the Modi government’s first term but lapsed after protests and an alliance partner’s withdrawal. If the bill is passed by the upper house, citizenship will be granted to select groups including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs who moved from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015 and who have lived in India for at least six years. Since news of the bill has broken, hundreds have taken to the streets in India in protest.
Former president of the Indian Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, called the bill an attack on the Indian constitution. “Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” said Gandhi on Tuesday. In a statement issued, the USCIRF stated that it was “deeply troubled” by the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha. It called the bill “a dangerous turn in the wrong direction”, reported Scroll.in. “It runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” the statement added. The statement maintained that implementing a register documenting India’s citizens would “strip citizenship from millions of Muslims”.
However, the Indian home minister refuted claims that the bill is anti-Muslim. “We will have to differentiate between intruders and refugees,” he was quoted as saying by Scroll.in.
Responding to the USCIRF’s statement, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said: “We regret the inaccurate and unwarranted comments made by USCIRF on #CAB. They have chosen to be guided by their prejudices and biases on a matter on which they have little knowledge and no locus standi.” In a tweet, Kumar attached a statement by the ministry which said USCIRF’s statement was “neither accurate nor warranted”.