The European Parliament will on January 29 take up for debate six resolutions on the Citizenship Amendment Act, of which five are critical of the new law, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday. The Parliament will also vote on the matter on January 30. The European Parliament is the legislative arm of the European Union.
The draft resolutions were all tabled on January 22 as part of the procedure to wind up the debate on the European Commission’s vice president’s statement on the Citizenship Amendment Act. While five of the resolutions are critical of the law and the Indian government’s handling of protests, only one, by the European Conservatives and Reformists, a centre-right political group, cautiously supports the government.
The European People’s Party group, the largest group in the European Parliament with 182 MEPs, expressed concern about the “wide range of negative consequences that it [the citizenship law] might have for India’s international image and internal stability”. While the group supported India’s move to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities, it said different sets of rules for different religious communities will prove counterproductive and may be considered discriminatory.
The group condemned the “violence and brutality” that followed the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Parliament. It said law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to show restraint and allow peaceful protests. At least 26 people died in December in clashes between the police and protestors.
The Socialists and Democrats Group, the second largest with 154 MEPs, called the new citizenship law discriminatory, dangerously divisive” and warned that it may potentially create the “largest statelessness crisis in the world”. It also asked the Indian government to ensure that the foreigners’ tribunals established in Assam for persons excluded from the National Register of Citizens operate with full transparency.
The Renew Europe Group, a liberal group with 108 MEPs from 22 countries, said the Citizenship Amendment Act is “explicitly discriminatory in nature as it specifically excludes Muslims from access to the same provisions as other religious groups”. This group also warned that India was about to create a huge statelessness crisis.
The Verts/ALE Group, which is the fourth largest group with 75 MEPs from 16 countries, asked the Indian government to immediately amend the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act with regard to international human rights standards. It also expressed the fear that the implementation of the Act will make millions of Muslims stateless.
The GUE/NGL Group that has 41 left-wing MEPs, criticised both the citizenship law and the security shutdown and detentions in Jammu and Kashmir, following the abrogation of the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
The European Conservatives and Reformists group was the only group that cautiously supported the legislation. It said the Indian government had explained the rationale behind the law, and said that India as a sovereign state is free to enact such a law. However, the group too criticised the “excessive use of force by security forces against demonstrators protesting against the CAA”.
Efforts are being made by all six groups to reach a single, compromise resolution on the Citizenship Amendment Act by January 29. There has been no official response from India on the draft resolutions.
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. Twenty-six people died in last month’s protests against the law – all in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Assam.
The Indian government’s critics and some protestors fear that the amended law and the National Register of Citizens will be misused to target Muslims since the Citizenship Act now has religion as a criterion. There are now fears that a nation-wide National Register of Citizens will be imposed. The Assam NRC had left out around 6% of the state’s population. Work has also begun on the National Population Register, which is the first step to creating an all-Indian NRC identifying undocumented migrants residing in India.