A US body gave away its anti-India bias by inviting a Pakistani expert to give a testimony over the fallout of the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian parliament

The USCIRF is conducting hearings on India’s amended citizenship law

An independent body mandated by the US congress to monitor the state of religious freedom around the world may have unwittingly given away its historical bias against India by inviting expert testimony from an adviser to the Pakistani prime minister at a public hearing on India’s controversial citizenship laws.

“The new citizenship law is aimed at Muslims and those from the poorest sections of India’s caste system, (and) undermines the non- confessional basis of the Indian constitution,” said the expert, Azeem Ibrahim, of the Centre for Global Policy that focuses exclusively on US foreign policy implications for Muslim-majority countries.

And the law, “will create identifiable groups who are denied the basic right of citizenship”, the expert argued.

Here is how Ibrahim’s homepage (www.azeemibrahim.com) describes him: “Over the years, Dr Ibrahim has advised numerous world leaders on strategy and policy development with his most recent role being the Strategic Policy Advisor to the Chairman of Pakistan’s PTI party, Prime Minister Imran Khan.”

Khan’s alarmist views on the Citizenship Amendment Act and everything Indian, including cricket, are well known by now.

But, just to recap, he had raised the spectre of a nuclear war in December conference on refugees in Geneva.

“We are worried there not only could be a refugee crisis, we are worried it could lead to a conflict between two nuclear-armed countries,” Imran had said.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom or USCIRF, which has struggled to find the kind of global recognition and respect commanded by other genuinely bipartisan US bodies, had a chance of setting it right. Indian-descent Anurima Bhargava, one of the USCIRF commissioners, set the tone for the hearing with a searing critique of the CAA, saying that together with the planned National Population Register (NPR) and the potential National Register of Citizens (NRC), it was feared to “result in the wide-scale disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims”.

Ashutosh Varshney, a widely respected Indian-descent academic, was even more critical in his testimony.

“The threat is serious and the implications quite horrendous,” he said referring to the joint impact of the three government programmes.

“Something deeply injurious to the Muslim minority can happen, once their citizenship rights are taken away,” Varshney added.

“The Indian Constitution in its Preamble emphasizes the ideals of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and secularism,” said Aman Wadud, a human rights lawyer from Assam.

“The steps proposed by the Indian government are a direct attack on these constitutional ideals, and defeat the demand that every Indian citizen has the right to a life of dignity. The Indian Constitution, which is an unparalleled document in the history of modern nations, guarantees the right to live with dignity. The NRC exercise if implemented will deny this very right to live a dignified life.”

The USCIRF insinuated itself into the CAA controversy very early urging the Trump administration to sanction Union home minister Amit Shah if the amendment law passed parliament. It did, and the administration has still to act on that recommendation if the USCIRF did indeed make it.

The USCIRF had wanted to send a team to India in 2016 to “discuss and assess religious freedom conditions in that nation”, but India had blocked it by denying visas. Though the body had then said it would continue to pursue the visit, it could not be immediately ascertained if it tried again.