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July 24, 2024
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US state dept official expresses concern over new Indian citizenship law

A US state department representative for religious freedoms globally has expressed concern over the Citizenship Amendment Act and the US embassy in New Delhi has urged its citizens in northeast India to “exercise caution” in view of protests and disturbances in relation to the legislation.

But the US government has not endorsed a call issued last week by an autonomous body — the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) — for sanctioning Indian leadership responsible for the legislation, if it was also passed in the Rajya Sabha. It did, and has been signed into a new law.

Ignoring the call for sanctions, Sam Brownback, the state department’s ambassador-at-large for religious freedom sought to chide India for the legislation reminding it of its constitutional commitments. “One of #India’s great strengths is its Constitution,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday. “As a fellow democracy, we respect India’s institutions, but are concerned about the implications of the #CAB (which is now an Act, and the law). We hope the government will abide by its constitutional commitments, including on religious freedom.”

Brownback is a former Republican governor of Kansas state and had been praised for his and his administration’s unequivocal condemnation of the killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian IT engineer, in 2017, and cooperation provided to Indian authorities and relatives. “As Governor of the State of Kansas, I would like to express my deep sadness and profound regret at the terrible act of violence committed against Srinu Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani (the survivor),” he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a letter. “The people of Kansas share in my shock and horror. Words cannot express the sorrow that we feel for Srinu’s wife, Sunayana, and his family in Hyderabad.”

The United States finds itself in a curious position on CAA given the Trump administration’s efforts to prohibit people from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering and also banning refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries citing security risk, through executive action (not approved by congress).

The US embassy in New Delhi, in the meantime, issued a travel advisory for its citizens in, or travelling, to the Northeast, which have been rocked by protests against the citizenship law.

“US citizens in the northeastern states of India should exercise caution in the light of media reports of protests and violence in response to the approval of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” the embassy said in an alert on Friday. It cited curfews and disruptions in transportation and internet connections in those areas, and added that all official travel to Assam have been suspended.

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