Hindu American Foundation accuses USCIRF of spreading misinformation about CAA
A top Hindu body in the United States, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), has accused the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) of spreading misinformation about the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). At USCIRF's "Citizenship Laws and Religious Freedom" hearing held on Wednesday, members of the US panel expressed concerns over the amended citizenship law, saying it could result in "wide-scale disenfranchisement" of Muslims.
In a joint statement, HAF Managing Director Samir Kalra and Executive Director Suhag Shukla said that the CAA is a continuation of India's "centuries-long history of providing shelter to diverse groups fleeing religious persecution in their native countries." The statement went on to add that the CAA does not disenfranchise anyone or strip any Indians of their citizenship.
Separately, Kalra said, "It is 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." Kalra added, "This only serves to further compound the irresponsible statements that have come from the media and some US lawmakers, which has only fueled more tension and violence in India."
Kalra also added, "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."
However, the HAF advised the Indian government to accept the following definition of religious and ethnic minorities: "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."
The USCIRF had on Wednesday convened a hearing of a panel of experts on CAA and the issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said there are fears that the CAA, in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), "could result in wide-scale disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims." Bhargava said that the recent actions by the Indian government were troubling.
Last month, the USCIRF had issued a factsheet, criticizing the CAA as a "significant downward turn in religious freedom in India." India's Ministry of External Affairs had then deemed the factsheet "factually incorrect" and "aimed at politicizing the issue."