The United States is concerned about the implications of the amended Citizenship Act in India, a top American diplomat, responsible for monitoring international religious freedom, said on Friday.
“One of India’s great strengths is its Constitution. As a fellow democracy, we respect India’s institutions, but are concerned about the implications of the CAB Bill,” Sam Brownback, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, said in a tweet.
“We hope the government will abide by its constitutional commitments, including on religious freedom,” he said in his tweet, which comes days before next week’s 2+2 ministerial between India and the US.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are scheduled to arrive at Washington DC next week for the second 2+2 ministerial with their respective American counterparts — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper — on December 18.
Meanwhile, at a Congressional briefing organised by the Indian American Muslim Council, Emgage Action and the Hindus for Human Rights, Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch expressed concern on Thursday over the human rights situation in Kashmir and Assam.
Stanton is known for creating the famous “Ten Stages of Genocide” as a presentation to the US Department of State when he worked there in 1996.
He also drafted the UN Security Council resolutions that created the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda and the Burundi Commission of Inquiry.
Claiming that Assam was seeing “the construction of a pretext for expulsion [of Muslims]”, Mr Stanton said the “ongoing genocide” in both Kashmir and Assam was a “classic case” and followed the pattern of the “Ten Stages of Genocide”.
Amid flaring tensions in the northeast over the Citizenship Act, the United States had earlier urged India to protect the rights of its religious minorities in keeping with its Constitution and democratic values.
“We are closely following developments regarding the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Respect for religious freedom and equal treatment under the law are fundamental principles of our two democracies,” a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, was passed by Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, following which it got the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind and was turned into an Act.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the US House of Representatives had voiced its apparent disapproval of the most controversial bill.
Taking to Twitter, the House Foreign Affairs Committee had said, “Religious pluralism is central to the foundations of both India and the US and is one of our core shared values. Any religious test for citizenship undermines this most basic democratic tenet. #CABBill”.
According to the new law, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
The Act says the refugees of the six communities will be given Indian citizenship after residing in India for five years, instead of earlier requirement of 11 years.