US says CAA undergoing 'vigorous democratic scrutiny'

US says India's citizenship law undergoing 'vigorous democratic scrutiny'

“We continue to underscore the importance of the principle of equal protection under the law,” said Wells, who called on External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs during her visit to India earlier this month.

Ahead of President Donald Trump's proposed visit to New Delhi next month, the US has nudged India to ensure equal protection for all under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), noting that the new law was undergoing “vigorous democratic scrutiny” on the streets and in the court.

A group of members of the European Parliament are also set to introduce a draft resolution in the legislature of the European Union next week, pointing out that India's new citizenship law was “explicitly discriminatory in nature” and might lead to the “largest statelessness crisis in the world and cause widespread human suffering”.

Alice G Wells, a senior US diplomat, told journalists in Washington D.C. that her recent visit to New Delhi had offered her “an opportunity to hear more regarding developments with India’s Citizenship Amendment Act”, which, according to her, was undergoing “a vigorous democratic scrutiny”— be it “on the streets, by the political opposition, media, and the courts”.

“We continue to underscore the importance of the principle of equal protection under the law,” said Wells, who called on External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs during her visit to India earlier this month.

Washington D.C. also nudged New Delhi to “move swiftly to release” Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) “political leaders”, who had been detained without charge before, on and after August 5— the day Modi government moved to strip the erstwhile state of its “special status” and to reorganise it into two Union Territories.

The comment from the senior US diplomat came when New Delhi and Washington D.C. were preparing for US President's visit to India— possibly in the last week of the next month.

Wells, however, lauded the recent initiative by the Modi government to take some of the foreign envoys based in New Delhi on a tour to Srinagar so that they could have a first-hand assessment of the efforts being made by it to bring the situation in J&K to normal.

“We see this as a useful step. We also continue to urge the government to permit regular access by our diplomats, and to move swiftly to release those political leaders detained without charge,” said the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.

Kenneth Juster, the US envoy to India, was among the envoys, who visited Srinagar.

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 commission, an “independent, bipartisan federal government entity” established by the American Congress, had even called upon Trump Administration to consider imposing sanctions on Home Minister Amit Shah and other leaders of India.

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee too had expressed concern, stating that “any religious test for citizenship” would undermine the “most basic democratic tenet”.