US voices concern as UN calls India’s citizenship law fundamentally discriminatory


WASHINGTON – Voicing concern over India’s con­troversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the United States said it is monitoring the implementation of this law. “Respect for religious free­dom and equal treatment under the law for all communities are funda­mental democratic principles,” State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller said in response to a question from a Pakistani channel reporter at his daily news briefing.

“So we are concerned about the notification of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on March 11. We are closely monitoring this act – how this act will be implemented,” he added. The US remarks came at the back of a strong statement by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, saying the new citizenship law in India was ‘fundamentally discriminatory’ in nature.

The amendment to the Citizenship Act gives priority to Hindus, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians resident in India before 2014, but excludes Muslims, includ­ing minority sects.

“Although India’s broader natural­ization laws remain in place, these amendments will have a discrim­inatory effect on people’s access to nationality”, Jeremy Laurence, a spokesperson with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said on Friday.

India’s Parliament passed the con­troversial law on Wednesday, which has sparked protests and clashes in several locations. Speaking to jour­nalists in Geneva, Laurence said it appears to undermine India’s com­mitment to equality before the law, as enshrined in its Constitution.

He added that last December, India joined the international community in endorsing the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, which commits countries to ensure that all measures governing migra­tion are based in human rights.

“All migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to re­spect, protection and fulfilment of their human rights,” he said.

Furthermore, while protecting per­secuted groups is welcome, the UN human rights office, OHCHR said this should happen through a “robust” asylum system based on equality and non-discrimination, and which applies to all people regardless of race, religion, national origin or oth­er status. “We understand the new law will be reviewed by the Supreme Court of India and hope it will con­sider carefully the compatibility of the law with India’s international human rights obligations”, Laurence said. Meanwhile, international me­dia outlets are reporting that two people were killed and many others injured, in demonstrations held in northern India on Thursday to pro­test the new measure.

OHCHR has urged the authorities to respect the right to peaceful as­sembly, while all sides should re­frain from resorting to violence. On the other hand, Amnesty Interna­tional said the operationalization of the CAA is a “blow to the Indian con­stitutional values of equality and re­ligious non-discrimination and in­consistent and incompatible with India’s international human rights obligations”.

“The Citizenship Amendment Act is a bigoted law that legitimizes discrimination on the basis of re­ligion and should never have been enacted in the first place. Its opera­tionalization is a poor reflection on the Indian authorities as they fail to listen to a multitude of voices criti­cal of the CAA – from people across the country, civil society, interna­tional human rights organizations and the United Nations,” said Aakar Patel, chair of the board at Amnes­ty International India.

Four years after the contentious Citizenship was enacted, the Hin­du-nationalist Narendra Modi gov­ernment on Monday, March 11, no­tified necessary rules for the law to be implemented. Without rules be­ing framed, the Act could not be im­plemented.__The Nation