Even as the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed in the Lok Sabha at midnight on Monday after hours of heated debate, a federal US commission has sought American sanctions against Home Minister Amit Shah if the bill is passed in both houses of Parliament.
After being passed by a whopping majority in the Lok Sabha, the bill is now headed to the Rajya Sabha.
The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called the bill “a dangerous turn in the wrong direction” and said it was deeply troubled by the passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha.
The statement issued by the US federal commission said, “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.”
The statement said that the passage of the bill along with the NRC process could spell trouble of many Muslims in the country: “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.”
Even back home, the bill has had many people worried. Political activist Umar Khalid said that it was time for a civil disobedience movement. Speaking to Huffpost India’s Betwa Sharma Khalid said, “This entire idea that Hindus will be rehabilitated through CAB is an eyewash. No matter which community you come from, you will be put through a lot of pain and anxiety by the current government. You are going to be put through a maze to prove your citizenship. It will create chaos in society. There will be claims and counterclaims in which any high scale bureaucratic exercise is entangled.”
[Read Umar Khalid’s interview here.]
The bill also drew criticism from Opposition parties. Congress leader P Chidambaram said, “CAB is unconstitutional. Parliament passes a Bill that is patently unconstitutional and the battle ground shifts to the Supreme Court. Elected Parliamentarians are abdicating their responsibilities in favour of lawyers and judges!”
Shah, meanwhile, claimed that people belonging to any religion should not have any fear under the Narendra Modi led BJP government.
The Home Minister claimed that the bill will give relief to those minorities who have been living a painful life after facing persecution in neighbouring countries. In the same breath Shah reiterated that the NRC will be implemented across the country to ensure no illegal immigrants remain in India.
[Read How Amit Shah defended excluding Muslims from Citizen Bill here.]
Shah asserted that the bill has the endorsement of 130 crore Indian citizens and rejected suggestions that the measure is anti-Muslims, saying it will give rights to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
“Citizenship amendment bill has the endorsement of 130 crore citizens of the country as it was the part of the BJP manifesto in 2014 as well as 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
However, the bill has been opposed by the Congress, Trinamool Congress and other Opposition parties.
(With PTI inputs)