Cancelled visits, call for sanctions: International fallout of Citizenship Act

Cancelled visits, call for sanctions: International fallout of Citizenship Act

The fallout of India's Citizenship Amendment Act, a controversial new law dealing with naturalisation of illegal immigrants which critics say is anti-Muslim, isn't limited to angry protests at home.

The world has been watching.

The amended Citizenship Act offers citizenship to illegal immigrants who are Pakistani, Afghan and Bangladeshi nationals, but fled their home countries to escape religious persecution.

This law does not cover Muslim nationals of these countries, including those belonging to minority communities such as Ahmadis, who aren't recognised as Muslims in Pakistan.

The targeted beneficiaries of the Citizenship Amendment Act are those living in India illegally and belonging to six minority communities -- Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian -- from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The government has pointed out that the law won't take citizenship away from Indians, denied the charge that it is anti-Muslim, and promised to protect locals' rights in the Northeast, where there are fears of a threat to their social and cultural identity.

However, the Citizenship Amendment Act has drawn a flood of criticism, not least from neighbours covered by it.

Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has repeatedly excoriated the legislation.

The Pakistan National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution this week asking India to revoke "discriminatory" clauses in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which it said was against bilateral agreements.

India hit back, saying it was "laughable" that a body "that has itself passed discriminatory legislation against religious minorities, should point fingers at others".

Bangladesh's ministers for home and foreign affairs cancelled visits to India last week as protests of the legislation began in the Northeast. Bangladesh home minister AK Abdul Momen said the policy could weaken India's character as a secular nation and rejected his Indian counterpart Amit Shah's assertion of persecution of minorities in Bangladesh.