WASHINGTON: The head of a US government advisory board on Tuesday voiced concern over India´s drive to register citizens in the northeastern state of Assam, amid fears it could disenfranchise millions, most of them Muslims.
Tony Perkins — chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which issues recommendations to the government but does not make policy — said that religious pluralism was “a bedrock of Indian society.”
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“However, we remain concerned with the potential abuse of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the resulting introduction of a religious requirement for citizenship, which are contrary to the ideals of religious freedom in India,” he said in a statement.
India has given Assam residents until the end of the month to prove they, their parents or grandparents were in the state before 1971.
Home Minister Amit Shah, the right-hand man of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has called for the ejection of “termites” from India and, before their Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party´s election triumph this year, vowed to take the Assam-style campaign nationwide and “send back the infiltrators.”
In another move, India´s lower house of parliament passed legislation in January to grant citizenship to people who came from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan at least six years ago — but not if they are Muslim.
Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group close to President Donald Trump´s Republican Party that is known for its opposition to acceptance of homosexuality.
Joining his statement of concern was Anurima Bhargava, a member of the commission appointed by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
She said the commission was “troubled” by any actions that target minorities, saying that the registration “must not become a means to target and render stateless the Muslim community in northeastern India.”