United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has voiced concern about India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, saying laws like this create “a risk of statelessness” for those who are denied citizenship. In an interview with Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Guterres said it was essential to prevent statelessness when nationality laws were changed.
“The present UN high commissioner has been quite active in relation to this [India] situation like many others because there is a risk of statelessness created by those nationality laws,” Guterres said in an interview to Dawn. “It is absolutely essential that when nationality law is changed, statelessness is prevented.”
Guterres said it was important to ensure that every citizen of the world is also a citizen of a country. The United Nations chief also expressed concern about the rising discrimination against the minorities in India.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, grants citizenship to people from six communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, if they have entered India by December 31, 2014. However, the Act excludes Muslims from its scope. Protests against the Act in India have led to 32 deaths so far.
Guterres also spoke about the international media reports, including the one by human rights organisation Amnesty International, about the alleged torture and sexual abuse of children in Jammu and Kashmir by Indian Army personnel. He said the reports played an important role in “clarifying exactly what is happening” in Kashmir and “it is essential that these reports are taken seriously”.
On why the United Nations failed to constitute an inquiry commission to investigate the alleged atrocities, Guterres said: “Only the governing bodies of the UN or the Security Council can make that decision, but these reports are credible, relevant and very important.”
In December, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested the UN chief to understand the complications of the steps taken by India in Assam to “deprive the Muslim population of Indian nationality”, and had made a mention of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
On February 16, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre would remain firm on its decisions such as the new Citizenship Act and the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. The prime minister added that the decisions were taken in the nation’s interest and the government would stand its ground despite pressure from all sides.