USCIRF Fears India is Trying to Create ‘Religious Test’ for Citizenship as Protests Against Controversial New Bill Erupt

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is speaking out against a bill passed in India’s lower legislative house and is accusing the Modi government of trying to create “a religious test for Indian citizenship” in the majority Hindu nation.

Protests have erupted in India’s northeast with demonstrators burning effigies of India’s president following the passage of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in India’s Lok Sabah.

The congressionally mandated bipartisan commission recommended Monday that the U.S. State Department consider issuing sanctions against Home Minister Amit Shah and other government leaders should his CAB bill pass in India’s upper legislative house (Rajya Sabha).

Shah also serves as president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party aligned with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Since BJP came to power in 2014 under President Narendra Modi, Hindu persecution against religious minorities including Muslims and Christians has dramatically increased.

Shah’s bill would change India’s 1995 citizenship law to allow citizenship to be given to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan who came to India before 2015. Persecuted minorities recognized by the bill include Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis. However, the bill excludes Muslims.

Critics fear that the bill could open the door for Hindu migrants from Bangladesh to make their way into the northeast.

“The CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion,” a USCIRF statement reads. “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.”

USCIRF notes that the BJP included the passage of the legislation as part of a manifesto released ahead of its electoral victory in May 2019.

The bill comes as the BJP government excluded nearly 2 million people from citizenship in its northeastern Assam state in August. The government said its aim was deporting undocumented immigrants from neighboring countries. However, some felt it was aimed at deporting Muslims, which comprise about a third of the state’s population.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith