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Citizenship (Amendment) Bill discriminates against Muslims: Human Rights Watch

Protesters torch copies of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

Protesters torch copies of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

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“The bill uses the language of refuge and sanctuary, but discriminates on religious grounds in violation of international law,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director said.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, passed in Lok Sabha on Monday, discriminates against Muslims, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

The Indian government’s proposed law to grant citizenship to refugees from non-Muslim communities fleeing from persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan violates India’s international legal obligation, the HRW said.

“The Indian government’s claim that the citizenship law aims to protect religious minorities rings hollow by excluding Ahmadiyya from Pakistan and Rohingya from Myanmar,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director said. “The bill uses the language of refuge and sanctuary, but discriminates on religious grounds in violation of international law,” she added

The HRW has pointed out that the joint parliamentary committee that reviewed the Bill in January concluded that it violates Articles 14 & 15 of the Constitution, which guarantee right to equality and non-discrimination.

It also noted that several opposition parties are opposed the Bill during the Lok Sabha debate on Monday, claiming it was an assault to the foundational values of the country.

“The Indian government is creating legal grounds to strip millions of Muslims of the fundamental right of equal access to citizenship,” Ms. Ganguly said adding that the proposed law violates India’s international obligations to prevent deprivation of citizenship on the basis of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin as found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other human rights treaties.

The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, to make undocumented migrants from Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, citizens of India.

The government makes a distinction between Muslims, who it says have “immigrated illegally,” and “refugees” – namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains trying to escape religious persecution in their country of origin.

Defending the Bill in parliament, Home Minister Amit Shah had said, “There is a fundamental difference between a refugee and an infiltrator. This Bill is for refugees.”

The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday and will be taken up for discussion in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Subject to the approval of the Rajya Sabha, it will be sent to the President for his approval.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 7:23:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/citizenship-amendment-bill-discriminates-against-muslims-human-rights-watch/article30275654.ece

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