Expressing concern over the potential abuse of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, a US bipartisan body said on Tuesday that the verification process must not become a means to target the members of the Muslim community in northeastern India.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission created in 1998, that reviews religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.
India has previously rejected USCIRF report while maintaining that its Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion. India says the USCIRF has no locus standi to pass its comment on Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights.
The comments were made in a statement issued by USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins and Commissioner Anurima Bhargava.
"We remain concerned with the potential abuse of the NRC in Assam and the resulting introduction of a religious requirement for citizenship, which are contrary to the ideals of religious freedom in India," said Perkins.
Bhargava said that the USCIRF remains "troubled by any government policies or actions that have the effect, whether intentional or not, of undermining religious freedom for vulnerable religious minorities".
"The National Register of Citizens verification process must not become a means to target and render stateless the Muslim community in northeastern India," she said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar last week said the process of documenting and identifying illegal immigrants in Assam is India's "internal matter".
The NRC process is aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in Assam that borders Bangladesh. Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC which was first prepared in 1951.ALSO READ: Assam NRC: SC orders list of exclusion be published only online on August 31; data to kept as secure as Aadhaar