Now UK Says CAA Divisive, Raises Concerns With India

Deepak Pant/London

The Boris Johnson government has joined others in raising concerns over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by calling it ‘divisive’, conveying its views on its impact to Indian authorities, and using its diplomatic network in the country to monitor developments “closely”.

MPs on Thursday (February 27) asked the government to make a statement in the House of Commons on the issue, including recent deaths in Delhi. Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House, said the Johnson government is taking “this matter extremely seriously…It is a very serious matter”.

The government’s stand CAA was articulated in the House of Lords on Tuesday evening during a brief debate, which included contributions from Meghnad Desai, Raj Loomba and Indarjit Singh, among others.

Responding to concerns on behalf of the government, Elizabeth Sugg, minister in the Foreign Office, said: “(The) Citizenship (Amendment) Act has clearly been divisive in India. Its full impact remains unclear”.

“We hope and trust that the Government of India will address the concerns and protect the rights of people of all religions, in keeping with India’s constitution, its democratic values and its inclusive traditions”.

“I assure noble Lords that the UK is in no way turning a blind eye to these challenges because we do not want to criticise an important partner”.

“For our part, the UK Government have concerns about the impact of the legislation…(Thanks) to our close relationship, we are able to discuss difficult issues with the Government of India and make clear our concerns, including about the rights of minorities”, she added.

Sugg informed the House that Tariq Ahmad, Foreign Office minister responsible for India, had raised concerns about CAA’s impact, and the public response to the legislation, with India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs on the day it was passed.

“Our former high commissioner in New Delhi, Sir Dominic Asquith, also raised the issue with the Government of India last month, as did Foreign and Commonwealth officials with the Indian High Commission in London”.

“Most recently, on 6 February, the British High Commission in New Delhi raised our concerns about the Act with the state government of Uttar Pradesh”, Sugg said.

In common with India’s inclusive tradition, she said the Johnson government believes that societies are stronger and safer “when we embrace our diversity rather than fear it”, and welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s promise following his re-election to maintain India’s tradition of inclusive government under the guiding principle of ‘Together with all, development for all and trust of all’.

Sugg added: “I note that earlier this month Prime Minister Modi told India’s Lok Sabha that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act would not affect any Indian citizens. We trust that the Government of India will provide further reassurances to any citizens concerned about the impact of the Act”.

According to the minister, India continues to face challenges in enforcing its constitutional protections for freedom of religion and belief, despite its strong democratic framework. The situation for religious minorities across India varies according to where they live, their socioeconomic background and how their numbers compare to other communities, she claimed.

On the issue of detention centres, Sugg told members that the Assam government has announced that there will be no immediate detention of those left off the NRC, and those excluded have an appeals system through the foreigners tribunal run by the state government.

She said: “We have not yet received any reports of anyone being detained or arrested or sent to a detention centre, and nor has anybody yet been deprived of their citizenship”.

The act has also been divisive in the 1.5 million-strong Indian community in the UK, the government said.

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