February 20, 2020 5:47:21 pm
Just days before United States President Donald Trump’s scheduled visit to India, a US body Thursday issued a factsheet on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), saying that the law in conjunction with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) is part of an effort to “create a religious test” and could lead to the widespread “disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims”.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a body mandated by US statute to “monitor the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad”, also said that the CAA represents a significant downward turn in religious freedom in India.
“There are serious concerns that the CAA serves as a protective measure for non-Muslims in case of exclusion from a nationwide NRC—a proposed list of all Indian citizens. This purpose is evident from BJP politicians’ rhetoric. With the CAA in place, Muslims would primarily bear the punitive consequences of exclusion from the NRC which could include statelessness, deportation, or prolonged detention,” the body said, citing three UN Special Rapporteurs.
“The CAA and NRC must also be understood in the context of the growing prominence of the BJP’s Hindutva ideology. This ideological frame views India as a Hindu state (with its definition of Hinduism inclusive of Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs) and Islam as a foreign and invading religion,” the USCIRF said.
The body, which was created by The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), also said that the Hindutva rhetoric in India questions the legitimacy of citizenships of Muslims and perpetuates the further marginalization of this faith community.
In a statement, the USCIRF had then said that it was “deeply troubled” by the CAB’s passage in Lok Sabha, “given the religion criterion in the Bill”, and recommended that “If the CAB passes in both Houses of Parliament, the US government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership”.
Widespread protests have erupted across India against the CAA that grants citizenship to individuals who are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, or Parsi and who entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan by the cut-off date of December 31, 2014 — excluding Muslims.
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