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Millennium Post

India from the outside

India from the outside

In the wake of the newly amended citizenship law and the eruption of protests against it in the national capital and various other parts of the country, international bodies have been legitimised to voice their opinions regarding the situation in India given that in the past few years, there has steadily been an impression that the incumbent Indian government is taking the nation towards being a Hindu state at the cost of wellbeing of some other communities. The cancelled visits by foreign leaders shortly following the increasing unrest across Assam in particular and elsewhere have been the first to speak of the impact the situation is having externally. It is necessary to spare some thought India's foreign relations in this context of a not entirely incorrect but ill-timed legislation compounded by persisting protests against it. The UN has expressed its concern over reports of violence in the country against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and has pointed towards respect for freedom of expression. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) through its spokesperson conveyed in Geneva that it is 'concerned' that the CAA is 'fundamentally discriminatory in nature'. It remains a raging matter of debate whether CAA is actually in essence fundamentally discriminatory or not, but the fact that the influential international body makes a statement calling in question the conduct of a sovereign nation is something for the government to be mindful of. Ensuring a situation peacefully and near normally under control in the aftermath of formalising the law would have counted well in the favour of the government as a healthy democracy allows space for expression of dissent. But, contrarily, urging respect for the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres went on to voice concern over the violence and alleged use of excessive force by security personnel in India against the amended law, as per which, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities who have fled Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan to India till December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship. The agitations against the legislation are on the grounds that this is "unconstitutional and divisive". The UN stepped in with its opinion on account of alleged violation of basic human rights of residents and protesting citizens. "The amended law would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India's Constitution and India's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to which India is a State party, which prohibit discrimination based on racial, ethnic or religious grounds...Although India's broader naturalisation laws remain in place, these amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people's access to nationality," UNHCHR spokesperson said.

India has been unwavering on its stand that the CAA provides expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities already in India from the aforementioned neighbouring countries. But several crucial details of the matter have been diluted in the contending pressures of the relentless protesters and the adamant government. MEA asserts that "It [CAA] seeks to address their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights. Such an initiative should be welcomed, not criticised by those who are genuinely committed to religious freedom", adding that the law "does not affect the existing avenues available to all communities interested in seeking citizenship from doing so". But the look of law and order situation with jammed communication and shut down in various parts, from beyond the Indian territory has been so grave that friendly nations are compelled to exercise caution. Old friend Russia has issued travel advisory for citizens visiting India and to those already in India to be "vigilant, cautious, avoid crowds and refrain from visiting areas controlled by protestors". The US Embassy in New Delhi had few days back listed out precautions for its citizens visiting the northeastern states, asking them to avoid areas with "demonstrations and civil disturbances", to be aware of their surroundings, and to keep a "low profile" among others. Several other countries including the UK, Israel, Canada, and Singapore, have asked their citizens to exercise caution while travelling to the Northeastern states in India in the wake of violent protests against CAA. Canada had advised its citizens earlier to avoid "non-essential" in those states and Israel has altogether warned its citizens to "completely avoid" going to Assam because of violent protests. The Israeli Foreign Ministry also warned against going to other states in the area due to the possibility of the violent protests spreading around. This is roughly how India looks like to its friends. This also legitimises the insecurity numerous protesting people in India are feeling. Restoring normalcy across the country by peaceful means has to be the priority of the government for both domestic as well as external reasons.

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