NEW DELHI: A US federal commission on international religious freedom has said that India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) is a "dangerous turn in wrong direction" and sought American sanctions against home minister Amit Shah if the bill is passed by both houses of Parliament.
The Lok Sabha late on Monday passed the CAB that proposes giving Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who fled religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, and came to India on or before 31 December, 2014. Three hundred and eleven members in the 545-member Lok Sabha voted in favour of the Bill, while 80 opposed it. It will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha for approval.
In a statement issued on Monday, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom or USCIRF said it was deeply troubled over the passage of the bill in Lok Sabha.
"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 suggested."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.
Recommendations of USCIRF are not enforceable. However, its recommendations are taken into consideration by the US government, in particular the state department, which is tasked with powers to take sanctionable actions against foreign entities and individuals for violation of religious freedom and human rights, a PTI report from Washington said.
The Trump administration in the US has not commented on the matter so far.
But the US Congress’ House (of Representatives) Foreign Affairs Committee in a post on Twitter said, “Religious pluralism is central to the foundations of both India and the United States and is one of our core shared values. Any religious test for citizenship undermines this most basic democratic tenet. #CABBill" — lending support to the USCIRF‘s remarks.
USCIRF said the CAB carves out a way for citizenship for immigrants, specifically excluding Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.
Stating that in conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and its possible extension nationwide, the "USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims".
It also noted that for more than a decade now the Indian government has ignored the statements and annual reports of the USCIRF.
India has for many years consistently maintained that it does not recognise a third country's views or its reports on India’s internal affairs.