The contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which was passed by both the houses of the Indian parliament, and got the President’s assent, is an attempt to reduce Muslims into second-class citizens, Muslim-American Congressman Andre Carson has said.
Carson issued the statement hours after the changes were cleared following a lengthy and fiery debate in the Rajya Sabha. At present, he is one of the three Muslim members serving in the US Congress.
Carson criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of targeting the “minority Muslim community, which identifies as uniquely Indian, with citizenship tests in a blatant attempt to deny that community’s constitutional rights and liberty, as well as its sense of place”. He said the move was not unexpected, “considering the history of Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its connections to strident communalism”.
The Congressman said these “citizenship ‘exercises’ and new laws strike at the heart of India’s founding tradition as a multicultural society”. He hoped that more members of the US legislature would take note of the policies of “Hindu nationalism… and Hindu supremacy” that, he claimed, were promoted by the Modi administration.
“Its harmful effects foment conditions that make populations susceptible to terrorism, strike at the heart of India’s pluralistic character, and could raise tensions between two nuclear powers: India and Pakistan,” Carson said in his statement.
Carson also raised his concern for the removal of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
“When the Indian Prime Minister Modi announced the unilateral changes to Jammu and Kashmir’s status on August 5, I expressed my grave concern about its implications for the future of Kashmir,” he said.
Calling it a dangerous move that disregards international norms, Carson said that government has ignored the democratic will of the Kashmiri people, undermined the rich tradition of Indian constitutionalism and raises huge questions about the future of India.
“Today, we witness yet another potentially devastating move by the Prime Minister, as lawmakers enacted his draconian CAB,” he said.
According to the Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
The BJP-led government has said the new law will be followed by a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that means Muslims must prove they were original residents of India and not refugees from these three countries. Non-Muslims listed in the law, by contrast, have a clear path to citizenship.
(With inputs from PTI)