The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MEA) of India has reacted sharply to the observation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) regarding the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2019. The MEA said that the statement of the American commission on the issue was neither correct nor was there any need to give a statement on it.
India said on Tuesday that the USCIRF chose the path of being guided by its prejudice on a subject on which it has no jurisdiction. Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that the USCIRF had no right to interfere on this issue. ” 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, he said on Twitter.
The USCIRF had, in a statement released on Monday, alleged that the CAB, which ensures citizenship for migrants, specifically excludes Muslims from it and thus makes religion a legal criterion, which was wrong. “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,” it said.
Raveesh Kumar said that the CAB 2019 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) did not take away citizenship from an Indian citizen of any religion whereas the USCIRF had said that this bill was a dangerous step in the wrong direction as Muslims were excluded in this bill.
The passage of this bill will open the legal path for immigrants to obtain citizenship on religious grounds in India, the US agency feared. If this bill is passed by the Parliament of India, sanctions should be imposed against Home Minister Amit Shah, it had said. “If the CAB passes in both houses of Parliament, the US government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership,” the commission said. “USCIRF is ‘deeply troubled’ by the passage of the CAB, originally introduced by Home Minister Shah, in the Lok Sabha given the religion criterion in the bill,” it added.
The USCIRF said that the Indian government had been ignoring its annual reports for more than a decade.
Raveesh Kumar said that the stand taken by the USCIRF was not surprising, given its past record. However, he said, it was regrettable that, in this case, the institution chose to be guided by its prejudice and partisan attitude, on which its knowledge is very limited and on which it has no jurisdiction.
According to the bill passed by the Lok Sabha, people from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who came to India before 31 December 2014, fleeing religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, will not be seen as illegal migrants. All these people will be able to apply for citizenship in India.
After the debate in the Lok Sabha till late Monday, a total of 311 votes were cast in favour of the bill while only 80 votes were received in the opposition. After the approval of the CAB in the Lok Sabha, it is now believed that the Modi government at the Centre can get it passed in the Rajya Sabha.