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Washington ‘concerned’ by India’s new citizenship law – Reuters

New Delhi has previously called the legislation an “internal matter” and said no foreign party has a right to interfere

Washington is concerned over India’s Citizenship Amendment Act and is “closely monitoring” how it will be implemented, a US State Department spokesperson told Reuters.

The new law halves the residence requirement for citizenship for undocumented migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

”Respect for religious freedom and equal treatment under the law for all communities are fundamental democratic principles,” the State Department spokesperson, who was not named, wrote in an email to Reuters.

The statement was released days after India’s home ministry revealed that those eligible can now apply to become Indian citizens. An online portal for receiving applications has already been set up. Nearly 30,000 people are likely to be granted citizenship under the scheme.

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US Vice President Kamala Harris and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken look on as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a luncheon at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, on June 23, 2023.
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Critics of the act, which was passed by parliament in 2019, have questioned why it does not mention Muslims. Detractors have also questioned why the law is being implemented five years after its passage – on the eve of a national election.

The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win the poll, meaning Modi would return as Prime Minister for a third term.

The passage of the contentious law triggered massive protests, first in the Northeast Indian region and then nationwide, with several casualties reported. Scattered protests were again witnessed after Monday’s announcement.

In March 2020, the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, filed an Intervention Application against the new law in India’s Supreme Court. In response, the Foreign Ministry argued that it is an “internal matter” and that no foreign party has any rights on issues of Indian sovereignty.

In a recent interview with news agency ANI, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah questioned the labelling of the act as “anti-Muslim” and claimed it must be viewed in the “historical context” of India’s partition with Pakistan. Previously, the Home Ministry explained that the implementation of the CAA took almost five years due to concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic. In another press note, it insisted that Indian Muslims “need not worry” as the new law does not include any provision to “impact their citizenship.”

March 14, 2024 at 02:12PM

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