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The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a “dangerous turn in wrong direction”, a federal US commission on international religious freedom claimed and sought American sanctions against Union Home Minister Amit Shah if the bill is passed by both houses of Parliament. The contentious bill passed the Lok Sabha test at midnight with 311 members voting in its favour.

The Bill seeks to make Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan facing religious persecution there, eligible for Indian citizenship.

In a statement issued on Monday, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom or USCIRF said that it was deeply troubled over the passage of the bill in Lok Sabha.

“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,” it said.

“If the CAB passes in both houses of Parliament, the US government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership,” the commission suggested.

Amit Shah on Monday introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha, where it was passed with 311 members favouring it and 80 voting against it, will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha for its nod.

Shah emphasized in the Lok Sabha that nobody should fear under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government as the bill will give relief to those minorities who have been living a painful life after facing persecution in neighbouring countries.

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

The Home Minister has rejected suggestions that the Bill is anti-Muslims.

“The Citizenship bill has the endorsement of 130 crore citizens of the country as it was the part of the BJP manifesto in 2014 as well as 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

However, the bill has been opposed by the Congress, Trinamool Congress and other opposition parties.

Stating that in conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and nationwide NRC that Home Minister Shah seeks to propose, the commission alleged that the “USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims”.

It also said that for more than a decade now the Indian Government has ignored the statements and annual reports of the USCIRF.

India from the days of the previous United Progressive Alliance or UPA regime has consistently said that it does not recognise a third country’s views or reports on its internal affairs. It is based on this ground that India for more than a decade now has denied visas to USCIRF to travel to India for their on the ground assessment of the religious freedom in India.

Recommendations of USCIRF are not enforceable. However, its recommendations are taken into consideration by the US Government in particular the State Department which is tasked with powers to take sanctionable actions against foreign entities and individuals for violation of religious freedom and human rights.

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