WASHINGTON DC: The United States Commission on International Religion Freedom (USCIRF) has sought sanctions against Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership if the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, is passed by the parliament, reported Indian media 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.
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”.
“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.
In a tweet posted on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the proposed bill and said the legislation “violates all norms of international human rights law and bilateral agreements with Pakistan”.
We strongly condemn Indian Lok Sabha citizenship legislation which violates all norms of int human rights law & bilateral agreements with Pak. It is part of the RSS “Hindu Rashtra” design of expansionism propagated by the fascist Modi Govt. https://t.co/XkRdBiSp3G
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) December 10, 2019
Meanwhile, in a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Pakistan condemned the move and said it was in “complete violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants on the elimination of all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief”.
“The latest legislation is another major step towards the realisation of the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, idealised and relentlessly pursued by the right-wing Hindu leaders for several decades. It is driven by a toxic mix of an extremist ‘Hindutva’ ideology and hegemonic ambitions in the region.
“It is also a clear manifestation of interference in the internal matters of neighboring countries based on religion, which we reject completely,” added the statement.