Minority rights, religious freedom issues pillars of democratic societies: Top US official on CAB, NRC

A senior US government official from the State Department has pointed out the importance of minority rights, religious freedom and human rights in democracies while commenting on citizenship issues that have fuelled furious, nationwide protests in India.

Atop US official mentioned the importance of minority rights and religious freedom while commenting on India’s amended Citizenship Act and NRC citizenship verification drive, ANI reports.

The unnamed senior official is from the US Department of State, responsible for foreign policy.

The US respects India’s democratic institutions and practices and has to talk to New Delhi about “[the] fact that…issues around minority rights, religious freedom, human rights are important pillars of democratic societies”, ANI quoted the official as saying.

The US issued a travel advisory on Thursday as Indian authorities scrambled to contain nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, a law on naturalising illegal immigrants that critics believe is anti-Muslim, and a National Register of Citizens destined for nationwide implementation. Three people died of injuries they suffered in the protests; hospital officials said two of them were shot.

The Citizenship Amendment Act fast-tracks naturalisation for Pakistani, Afghan and Bangladeshi illegal immigrants who faced religious persecution at home; it covers six minority religious groups but not Islamic ones. The NRC, meant to detect illegal immigrants, left out nearly two million people in a final list released for Assam.

Former Home Minister P Chidambaram said in a recent interview with India Today TV that the policies were like “Siamese twins” whose “net effect” would exclude Muslims. The government insists Indian Muslims need not worry.

When the citizenship law was still being debated in Parliament, a US federal commission on international religious freedom decried what it saw as “a dangerous turn in the wrong direction”. It also recommended sanctions against Home Minister Amit Shah “and other principal leadership” if Parliament passed the legislation. India said in response that panel’s comments were “neither accurate nor warranted”.

This week the Washington Post reported that India’s minister for external affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, “abruptly cancelled” a meeting with American legislators when one of them refused to exclude Pramila Jayapal. A Democrat, Jayapal is critical of New Delhi’s Kashmir policy and is “sponsoring a resolution urging India to lift communications restrictions, restore the Internet and preserve religious freedom”, the Post said.

Jayapal later said the cancellation “furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all”.

Jaishankar, on his part, said her report didn’t give a fair account of the situation in Kashmir or the government’s actions there.

Source: India Today

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