US panel rakes up CAA on eve of Trump visit

US panel rakes up CAA on eve of Trump visit

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 20

A US federal panel has sought to highlight its opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) a few days before US President Donald Trump arrives on his India visit.

In a factsheet, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has argued that the CAA represents a significant downward trend in religious freedom in India.

The factsheet also recalled USCIRF’s latest annual report which had a eight-page note on the state of religious freedom in India. The report asked the US Government to press New Delhi into permitting its delegation to visit the country. It also wants to work with the Indian Government to “ebb the flow of hate crimes targeting religious minorities” and sought the prosecution of media personalities, religious leaders and government officials who did so.

Along with 11 other countries, including Afghanistan, Malaysia and Cuba, USCIRF has placed India in ‘Tier 2’. This is a slot better than 16 “countries of particular concern”, including Pakistan, China and Russia.

USCIRF members are nominated by various branches of the US Congress to report on threats to religious freedom and to make foreign policy recommendations for the US President, US Secretary of State and the US Congress. The USCIRF does not usually issue factsheets such as the one issued on Wednesday but it has frequently critically commented on CAA and the NRC in Assam.

The USCIRF factsheet has been prepared by a team headed by academic Harrison Akins, who among other subjects is focused on South Asia. Akins occasionally lectures at classes held by former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK Akbar Ahmed at a top US university on international relations and his social media handle retweets visuals of protests against the CAA.

One of the USCIRF Commissioners is Indian-origin civil rights lawyer Arunima Bhargava who criticised New Delhi’s lockdown of Kashmir while deposing before the Human Rights Commission of the US Congress (Tom Lantos Panel) in November last year.  

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