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15 Mar, 2024 13:44

India snaps back at US over citizenship law concerns

New Delhi has dismissed the White House’s concerns over its citizenship law as “lectures”
India snaps back at US over citizenship law concerns

India’s foreign ministry dismissed the US State Department’s expressed concerns over a new citizenship law on Friday, terming them “misplaced, misinformed, and unwarranted.”

India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) halves the residence requirement for undocumented migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. The new law officially took effect earlier this week, and an online portal was opened for eligible persons to apply for citizenship.

“Lectures by those who have a limited understanding of India’s pluralistic traditions, and the region’s post-partition history are best not attempted,” Randhir Jaiswal, a spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said during a briefing in New Delhi.

India’s statement came hours after US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington was “closely monitoring” the new law, out of “concern” over how it will be implemented. Miller was responding to a reporters’ question on whether the CAA could affect religious freedoms in India.

“The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all Indians”, New Delhi’s spokesperson asserted. “There are no grounds for any concern on treatment of minorities.”

Critics of the law have questioned why it does not mention Muslims and took five years to implement, arriving weeks ahead of the national election.

The law was passed by the Indian parliament in 2019 despite protests, particularly in the Assam State that borders Bangladesh, amid fears over the number of foreign nationals that would be granted citizenship. After the act’s passage, protests broke out nationwide and continued for several months.

India’s Supreme Court has said it will hear an appeal against the act on March 19. Around 200 connected petitions, filed in the court since 2019, have challenged the controversial law.

In March 2020, the then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, filed an Intervention Application against the law in the country’s top court. India, at the time, responded that the CAA is an “internal matter” and that no foreign party has any rights on issues of national sovereignty.