While allowing asylum seekers entry is a welcome step, disallowing the same for persecuted Muslims reeked of “fear-mongering and bigotry", Amnesty said.

Bigoted law must be repealed Amnesty issues statement on Citizenship Amendment BillPTI photo
news CAB Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 12:48

Amidst heated debate surrounding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the Rajya Sabha passed it on Wednesday. The Bill has drawn criticism from many fronts, including Amnesty International India. The organisation has called it a “bigoted law that must be repealed immediately.”

“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed today by the Indian Parliament legitimises discrimination on the basis of religion and stands in clear violation of the Constitution of India and international human rights law,” Amnesty India said.

Calling the Bill “exclusionary in its structure and intent”, Amnesty points to how it restricts the eligibility only to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. “The Bill also reduces the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for these particular communities,” Amnesty said.

Acknowledging that while allowing asylum seekers entry was a welcome step, disallowing the same for persecuted Muslims in a secular country like India reeked of “fear-mongering and bigotry,” Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty India, said.

He also accused the Bill of being oblivious to persecution faced by minorities in the neighbouring region. “They also run absolutely foul of India's international obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” his statement said. He added that amendments also countered Article 14 of the Indian Constitution that guarantees the right to equality to every person. 

Amnesty also pointed out how the amendments leave out Sri Lankan Tamils from its purview, who form the largest refugee group in India and have been living in the country for over three decades. Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, described as the 'world's most persecuted minority' by the United Nations, have also been excluded. “It further ignores the plight of the Ahmadiyyas of Pakistan, Bihari Muslims of Bangladesh and Hazaras of Pakistan who have suffered systematic persecution over years. The exclusion of these communities shows the bias of the government,” Amnesty said.

The human rights organisation has argued that amendments to CAB infringe on the human rights of Indians, especially. Muslims.

The statement also takes note of Indian government’s plan to start a nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC), and how the exercise in Assam excluded more than 1.9 million people.

“The Government of India denies any form of discrimination but the amendments clearly weaponise the NRC process against Muslims. It is difficult to view the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in isolation and not look at the larger picture where both the amendments and the NRC may deprive minorities of their citizenship in India. The amendments also set a dangerous shift in the way citizenship will be determined in India. Worryingly, they also stand to create the biggest statelessness crisis of the world causing immense human suffering,” said Avinash Kumar.

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