The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday criticised Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s comments that “people are dying” because of the Citizenship Amendment Act and that the Indian government is “taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship”, PTI reported.

The ministry in a statement termed it as “factually incorrect” remarks and said Mahathir has “yet again remarked on a matter that is entirely internal to India”. In October, the Malaysian prime minister had spoken against India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status on August 5.

The MEA said the amended law provides for fast-tracked citizenship for non-citizens from persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. “The act does not impact in any manner on the status of any citizen of India, or deprive any Indian of any faith of her or his citizenship,” it added.

“Therefore, the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s comment is factually inaccurate,” the ministry said. “We call upon Malaysia to refrain from commenting on internal developments in India, especially without a right understanding of the facts.”

The amendments to the Citizenship Act, which was passed in Parliament last week, adds a religious criteria to India’s citizenship laws. It singles out non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and says they can get on an expedited path to Indian citizenship even if they entered India illegally. Though the Act was described as a way to help persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries, it ignores entirely other communities such as Tamils in Sri Lanka and Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Kuala Lumpur Summit on Friday, Mahathir had questioned the “necessity” of the Citizenship Amendment Act when Indians have “lived together for 70 years”. “I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state, is now taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship,” the 94-year-old leader added. “If we do that here, you know what will happen. There will be chaos, there will be instability and everyone will suffer.”

“People are dying because of this law,” he said. “Why is there a necessity to do this when all the while, for 70 years, they have lived together as citizens without any problem?” he asked.

Eighteen people have been killed in India in the anti-Citizenship Act protests that erupted last week. The police fired tear gas shells in two university campuses and a hospital as street battles raged between the police and the protestors in many places across the country. Many protestors and policemen have been injured. In some places, property was damaged.

Follow our live blog on the political fallout of the Citizenship Act across India.