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UN calls Citizenship Act “discriminatory”; US and UK issue travel advisories

The High Commissioner of the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission on Friday expressed serious concerns over India’s new “Citizenship Amendment Act”, terming it “fundamentally discriminatory in nature” and appear to “undermine the commitment to equality”.

“We are concerned that India’s new Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 is fundamentally discriminatory in nature,” UN human rights spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters in Geneva.”, said UN Human Rights Spokesperson Jeremy Laurence.

The UN body further said, “The amended law would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s Constitution and India’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to which Indian is a State party, which prohibit discrimination based on racial, ethnic or religious grounds.”

The US, Canada, and the UK also issued travel advisories asking their citizens to “exercise caution” while visiting the North-East in the wake of the protests.

“The US government has temporarily suspended official travel to Assam,” the US advisory said. The UK advisory asked travelers to “monitor local media” and “follow instructions of the local authorities”.

Earlier the US Commission for International Religious Freedom or USCIRF said that it was deeply troubled over the passage of the Act in Lok Sabha. “The Citizenship Act is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction; it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” it said.

Violent protests erupted in the North East with Guwahati and major parts of Assam being the worst affected. The Indian Army personnel are on standby in Tripura’s Kanchanpur and Manu and Assam’s Dibrugarh and Bongaigaon. A total of 5,000 paramilitary personnel has been deployed across the North East. Internet services have been suspended in 10 districts of Assam and an indefinite curfew imposed in Guwahati which was relaxed today for a few hours.

Demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act have spread to various parts of the country. The protest by Jamia Milia Islamia students in Delhi against the law turned violent yesterday when the police tried to prevent the protesters from taking out a march to Jantar Manar. In Aligarh also the administration has suspended the internet in the wake of protests by Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union.

The Act seeks to make Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan facing religious persecution there, eligible for Indian citizenship.

The controversial Act is receiving serious criticism and opposition from several quarters for being discriminatory and against the interests of the people by granting citizenship to people from foreign nations and this would create an identity crisis for the people in the North-East states.

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