Muslims’ fear of losing citizenship in India is ‘genuine,’ lawyer tells USCIRF

Lawyer Aman Wadud testifies before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on March 5, 2020 at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. | The Christian Post

WASHINGTON — Amid weeks of protests and sit-ins, an Indian civil rights lawyer told the United States’ top religious freedom panel Wednesday that there is a “genuine” possibility that many more Muslim citizens could be deemed “stateless” under a national registry proposed by the Modi administration.

Over a week after President Trump visited India where he praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his commitment to work to improve religious freedom in the country, experts issued dire warnings to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom about the future for Muslims in the Hindu-majority country.

USCIRF, a bipartisan panel that advises the State Department, Congress and White House, held a hearing Wednesday featuring testimonies from scholars and a lawyer actively involved in defending citizens accused by the government of being “foreigners.”

While the hearing focused on citizenship issues facing Muslims in both Myanmar and India, much attention was paid to the concerns of Muslims protesting India’s Home Minister Amit Shah’s proposal of a nationwide National Register of Citizens and the recent Citizenship Amendment Act.

The CAA, passed in December, is a fast-tracking of citizenship for refugees who came from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before December 2014. However, the legislation omits the fast-tracking for Muslims.

“The fear of losing citizenship is genuine because they know if NRC is implemented, they will be asked to prove their citizenship,” lawyer Aman Wadud told USCIRF commissioners.

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