After the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed in the Lok Sabha after a marathon 12-hour debate on Monday night, the The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has raised concerns about the future of secularism in India.
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief.
In a press release, USCIRF says, “The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is deeply troubled by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), originally introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) given the religion criterion in the bill.”
It elaborates, “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. In conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and nationwide NRC that the Home Minister seeks to propose, USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims.”
Fearing that the bill will also clear the upper house of the parliament, it says, “If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership.”
This is not the first time, the USCIRF has raised concerns about religious freedom under the present regime. In its 2019 report, it had said, “Various nationalist groups in India have expanded the ideology of Hindutva, or “Hinduness,” which has three pillars—common nation, race, and culture—and forms the basis of an oftentimes exclusionary national narrative with a singular focus on the rights of Hindus.” It added, “The influence of Hindutva groups goes beyond politics and government. For example, Hindutva groups have expanded the scope and size of religious schools—which often teach intolerant religious ideology in nongovernmental private educational systems—to nearly four million students, and have tried to distribute books promoting religious intolerance in public schools.”