UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Jeremy Laurence expressed deep concern over India’s new Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, calling it “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.
Under the law, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who have entered India illegally can apply for citizenship if they can prove they originate from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.
The lower house approved it on Monday and the upper house of Parliament passed it on Wednesday night. It now needs to be signed by the country's ceremonial president, a formality before becoming law.
Critics say it undermines the country's secular constitution but ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) argues that it will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution.
“The legislation does not extend the same protection to Muslims, including minority sects,” Laurence said, adding that the amended law would appear to undermine the commitment to equality.
Although India’s broader naturalisation laws remain in place, these amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality, he said.
All migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to respect, protection and fulfillment of their human rights.
The UN official hoped the Indian Supreme Court will consider carefully the compatibility of the law with India’s international human rights obligations.
He also expressed concern over the death of two people and injured police officers in Assam and Tripura as people protest against the Act and urged all sides to refrain from resorting to violence.