New Delhi: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said it was “deeply troubled” by the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, and recommended that sanctions be imposed on the “central leadership” if the bill is passed.
In a statement issued Monday, the USCIRF said the bill is a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction”.
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity that makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief.
According to the proposed bill, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who came to India to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before 31 December 2014, will be given citizenship and not treated as illegal migrants.
The Lok Sabha passed it after a fierce debate on Monday. It is now due to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Read the full text of the USCIRF’s statement here:
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is deeply troubled by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), originally introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) given the religion criterion in the bill. The CAB will now move to the Rajya Sabha (Indian Parliament’s Upper House). If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership.
The CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion. The CAB is 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. In conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and nationwide NRC that the Home Minister seeks to propose, USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims.
The Lok Sabha first passed the CAB in January 2019, but due to protests, the government withdrew it before it could be voted on by the Rajya Sabha. Both houses of parliament must ratify a bill before it can become law. The BJP included the passage of the CAB as part of its manifesto released ahead of its overwhelming electoral victory in May 2019.