Notwithstanding Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent claim to the contrary, a report by United States Congressional Research Service (US CRS) concluded that India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act or the CAA and the process of preparing the National Register of Citizens were “closely linked”.
The US CRS also concluded in a recent report that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, in tandem with the process of preparing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) planned by the Government of India, might “affect the status” of the country’s “large Muslim minority of roughly 200 million”.
The CRS, which serves as shared staff to US Congress members and committees, released the report on “Changes to India’s Citizenship Laws” recently.
As the CAA sparked off widespread protests across the country, Shah and other BJP leaders have of late been denying a link between the new citizenship law and the NRC.
The US CRS, however, quoted the Home Minister repeatedly stating in the past that a nationwide NRC law would follow the implementation of the CAA and (would) require all of the country’s current residents to prove eligibility for citizenship.
The report noted views of the opponents of the CAA warning that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and “his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)” were “pursuing a Hindu majoritarian, anti-Muslim agenda” that “threatens India’s status as an officially secular republic and violates international human rights norms”.
“The CAA and NRC are seen as closely linked, as the former is said to help protect non-Muslims who are excluded from the latter. Critics contend that only members of ‘approved’ religions will be protected by CAA provisions, while others will have little recourse, thus forwarding the alleged Modi-BJP project to undermine India’s secular ethos,” the report prepared by CRS’s South Asian Affairs specialist, K Alan Kronstadt, noted.
The US Commission of International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had earlier said that the CAA had enshrined “a pathway to citizenship for immigrants” specifically excluding Muslims and setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion. It had expressed apprehension that Government of India had been creating “a religious test” for citizenship that would “strip citizenship from millions of Muslims”.
The US House Foreign Affairs Committee too had expressed concern, stating that “any religious test for citizenship” would undermine the “most basic democratic tenet”.