New Delhi: The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an international NGO that promotes human rights in Commonwealth countries, has said that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 could lead to further “divisions and bitterness” within India, and is being rushed through without adequate consultation.
The Bill gives Indian citizenship rights to six non-Muslims communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill Monday, and the Rajya Sabha is set to discuss it today.
“Sweeping laws need substantial discussions, adequate preparation and an inclusive approach. A confrontation is bound to ensue and gather strength with the Bill being challenged legally on grounds of Constitutionality,” the CHRI has said.
“The CAB is establishing a process that is inimical of Constitutional elements, principles and values. Ours is a country that has grown on the basis of freedom, equality and inclusiveness. The bill fails the test of these key foundational values and indicators and undermines the very national security that leaders speak of. We believe that the bill flies in the face of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which prohibits the state from engaging in irrational classification of persons, from arbitrary action, and from treating people unequally for no legitimate reason,” the NGO continues.
“In his remarks on International Human Rights Day today, President Ram Nath Kovind called for the need for “introspection … empathy and imagination” and recognising the “sacred text” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The President spoke clearly on the need to protect the rights of those facing discrimination and inequality. Does the bill meet that criteria?” the CHRI asked, suggesting that it doesn’t.
Several criticisms have come in against the Bill, both from within and outside the country. The opposition, led by the Congress, raised several questions on the perceived anti-Muslim characteristics of the Bill. However, the Bill won an easy majority in the Lok Sabha.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom described the Bill as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction”, and even said that the US government should consider imposing sanctions against home minister Amit Shah. India has called that move “unwarranted”.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was part of the the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto in 2014 and 2019.