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Hindu American foundation accuses US body of misinformation on CAA


Washington, Mar 07: A top Hindu-American body has accused a US commission on international religious freedom of conducting hearings that perpetuate misinformation about the intent and impact of India's amended citizenship laws.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Wednesday expressed concern over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), saying it could result in the "wide-scale disenfranchisement" of Muslims in the country. Members of the commission along with an invited panel of experts convened a hearing mainly focused on CAA and the Rohingya Muslims issue in Myanmar to help develop policy recommendations for the US government in response to the issues.

Hindu American foundation accuses US body of misinformation on CAA

The new citizenship law passed by the parliament in December 2019 offers citizenship to non-Muslim persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. After the enactment of the law, protests erupted across the country over fears that the CAA may marginalise the minority Muslim community.

The government has maintained that the CAA is an internal matter of the country and stressed that the goal is to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries.

"It's deeply troubling to see US governmental bodies, such as the USCIRF hold hearings that perpetuate misinformation about the intent and impact of India's Citizenship Amendment Act," Hindu American Foundation (HAF) Managing Director Samir Kalra said.

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"This (USCIRF hearing) only serves to further compound the irresponsible statements that have come from the media and some US lawmakers, which has only fuelled more tension and violence in India," Kalra said.

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    "Tragically, lost in all the false and misleading propaganda are the real victims that the CAA intended to help - the religiously persecuted refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who are stuck in legal limbo and living on the margins of Indian society," he said.

    HAF also recommended that the government reconsider the definition of religious and ethnic refugees as "members of a religious or ethnic minority community who are unable to return to their home countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan, and unable to obtain protection in those countries due to past or well-founded fear of future persecution on account of religion or ethnicity."

    Indian-American Sunanda Vashisht, who last year testified before the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights on Kashmir, slammed Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies Ashutosh Varshney's comments at the USCIRF hearing that CAA, and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) "can render stateless a large number of Muslims, even if they were born in India and lived in the country for decades, as have their ancestors."

    "I am not sure how Prof Varshney arrived on this conclusion," Vashisht said. "CAA has no provision of rendering anybody stateless. It gives citizenship to persecuted minorities of three neighbouring countries. Nationwide NRC does not exist so to assume anything about that is merely fertile imagination."

    Unless Varshney "is talking about Assam NRC, which is a culmination of a long-protracted struggle by the Assamese and is being implemented under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India. Assam NRC has a totally different context and has nothing to do with the present government at all," said Vashisht.

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