US panel eyes sanctions for Indian minister

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - New Delhi: A federal panel on religion has urged the United States to weigh sanctions against India’s Home Minister Amit Shah if the south Asian nation adopts legislation to exclude Muslims from a path to citizenship for religious minorities from its neighbours.

Shah is a close associate of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government is seen by critics as pushing an agenda that undermines the secular foundations of India’s democracy.

On Tuesday, parliament’s lower house approved the measure covering citizenship for non-Muslim minorities, specifically Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs, who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

The bill has prompted criticism at home and abroad, as it marks the first time India is weighing religion in granting citizenship, although it must first pass the upper house of parliament, where Modi’s party lacks a majority.

The measure goes against India’s constitution, which guarantees legal equality to people of all faiths, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said.

“If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the United States government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership,” the panel said in a statement, referring to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).

The panel is a bipartisan body that makes foreign policy recommendations to the US leadership.

India’s foreign ministry called the panel’s statement inaccurate, saying the bill sought to help persecuted religious minorities already in the country.

“It seeks to address their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights,” said ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar.

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