India slams USCIRF comments on CAB as 'unwarranted'

New Delhi/Washington (IANS) India on Tuesday termed the comments made by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) as "neither accurate nor warranted".

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, in a statement said, the Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday midnight, "provides expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities already in India from certain contiguous countries".

He said the Bill "seeks to address their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights".

"Such an initiative should be welcomed, not criticized by those who are genuinely committed to religious freedom," the statement said.

He said the CAB "does not affect the existing avenues available to all communities interested in seeking citizenship from doing so. The recent record of granting such citizenship would bear out the Government of India's objectivity in that regard".

He clarified that neither the CAB nor the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process seeks to strip citizenship from any Indian citizen of any faith, and added that suggestions to that effect are "motivated and unjustified".

"Every nation, including the United States, has the right to enumerate and validate its citizenry, and to exercise this prerogative through various policies.

"The position articulated by USCIRF is not surprising given its past record. It is, however, regrettable that the body has chosen to be guided only by its prejudices and biases on a matter on which it clearly has little knowledge and no locus standi," the statement added.

The USCIRF on Monday said it is "deeply troubled" by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) "given the religion criterion in the bill".

It said if the CAB passes in both houses of Parliament, the US government "should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership".

It said that the CAB "enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion".

It termed the CAB "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".

"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."

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