The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is going to put pressure on Washington to impose sanctions if New Delhi passes the recent controversial bill called Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the parliament. The USCIRF considers the bill to be a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction”.
What is the Controversy about the Bill?
The bill draws strong criticism within and outside the country, as it intends to favor only Hindus. According to the proposed bill, the citizenship is extended to those people of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities, who fled to India till December 31, 2014, due to religious persecutions from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
The main issue of the bill is that it excludes the provision of citizenship for the Muslim minority in the country. The bill will recognize only non-Muslim immigrants as legal citizens. The USCIRF condemned the Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah’s policy, which discriminated against Muslims in the provision of citizenship entering from neighboring countries.
To minorities, the bill is seen as a threat, as Shah’s projecting of India as only a Hindu nation undermines the doctrine of “unity in diversity” and the secular principles of India’s democracy.
The Past and Present Status of the Bill
The bill was first introduced in the Parliament two-years after BJP came into power in 2014. The bill was passed in Lok Sabha in January 2019 but not tabled in the Rajya Sabha; thereby, it lapsed in May 2019.
Citing the bill as a violation of the Indian Constitution, many opposition parties criticized that the bill discriminated against many sections of people on the basis of religion.
On December 9, 2019, the CAB was passed by the LokSabha with a margin of 311 Members of Parliament (MPs) in support and 80 MPs against it. Next, the bill will be tabled at the Rajya Sabha and if approved, by the upper house, which will then make the bill into law.
However, it is going to be a tough bill to pass in the upper house, as BJP members lack a majority in it. During Monday’s parliament debate, an opposition politician Asaduddin Owaisi stated the bill was as an attempt by Modi Government to Muslims ‘stateless’.
Responses from the Indian Government
The USCIRF is a key organ of the US Government that assists in foreign policy making of the country and has blamed Shah’s bill, which violates the intrinsic principle of the Indian Constitution.
Referring to the CAB, the USCIRF warned, “If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the US Government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership.”
Citing the statement of the USCIRF as inaccurate, India’s foreign ministry defended that the bill aimed at helping those people who were persecuted in the name of religion from the neighboring countries.
Addressing in the Parliament debate, Shah explained, “If minorities in our neighboring countries are being persecuted, then India cannot stay a silent spectator.”
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