WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has issued a statement urging the US government for sanctions against Union Home Minister Amit Shah and “other principal leadership” if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed by the Rajya Sabha as well.

In a statement on Monday when Shah tabled the Bill in the Lok Sabha that passed it at the end of a seven hour debate, the USCIRF said that it was “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. The CAB will now move to the Rajya Sabha (Indian Parliament’s Upper House). If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership.”

It pointed out that the Bill was a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction” stating:

“The CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion. 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.”

The organisation noted that the” Lok Sabha first passed the CAB in January 2019, but due to protests, the government withdrew it before it could be voted on by the Rajya Sabha. Both houses of parliament must ratify a bill before it can become law. The BJP included the passage of the CAB as part of its manifesto released ahead of its overwhelming electoral victory in May 2019.”

The commission is an independent body whose members are appointed by the US President and elected representatives from both parties.

The statement comes amidst protests by citizens across India, even as Parliamentarians passed the discriminatory Bill in the Lok Sabha. Although the Opposition still has an edge in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP has won over sufficient support in the Upper House to push through a Bill that has evoked strong reaction all across India and globally now.

The US House Committee for Foreign Affairs has also issued a strong statement against the Bill stating that any religious test for citizenship will “undermine the basic tenets of democratic values” of a country. It stated, “religious pluralism is central to the foundations of both India and the United States and is one of our core shared values. Any religious test for citizenship undermines this most basic democratic tenet."