It could not have been ignorant of the international conventions and their similarities with the CAA.
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), India’s Citizenship Amendment Act is “fundamentally discriminatory in nature” and “undermine[s] the commitment to equality before the law”.
This claim flies in the face of the fact that international laws on refugees and displaced persons are very similar to the CAA. These laws, which are followed by many countries, are governed by the Constitution of the International Refugee Organization and the 1951 Refugee Convention of the United Nations, which, in turn, incorporate earlier arrangements related to the treatment of refugees in the 1920s and 1930s. While the UN convention has a clause forbidding discrimination on the basis of race, religion or the country of origin against those who are already refugees, the controlling documents, the prior agreements from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the actions of the UN clearly make these distinctions for the purpose of defining a refugee.
The Constitution of the International Refugee Organization uses country-specific language in its definition of refugees and also takes into account the circumstances in the country of origin of the refugees. Apart from those who were previously recognised as refugees, the definition of refugees includes the “victims of the Nazi or fascist regimes or of regimes which took part on their side in the second world war, or of the quisling or similar regimes” and “Spanish Republicans and other victims of the Falangist regime in Spain” who have left their home countries.
As in the case of India, economic migrants are not considered as refugees by a “principle” in the same document, which states, “It should be the concern of the Organization to ensure that its assistance is not exploited by persons in the case of whom it is clear that they are unwilling to return to their countries of origin because they prefer idleness to facing the hardships of helping in the reconstruction of their countries, or by persons who intend to settle in other countries for purely economic reasons, thus qualifying as emigrants.” The Constitution also emphasises that “as regards displaced persons, the main task to be performed is to encourage and assist in every way possible their early return to their country of origin.”
“War criminals, quislings and traitors” were excluded from consideration when the Constitution was drafted as were persons who “assisted the enemy in persecuting the civil populations”. There are also exclusion clauses based on ethnicity when it states that “[p]ersons of German ethnic origin, whether German nationals or members of German minorities in other countries, who: (a) have been or may be transferred to Germany from other countries; (b) have been, during the second world war, evacuated from Germany to other countries; (c) have fled from, or into, Germany, or from their places of residence into countries other than Germany in order to avoid falling into the hands of Allied armies” would not be the concern of the International Refugee Organization.
Ethnicity and nationality are not the only eligibility tests for consideration as refugees. The United Nations routinely uses religion too as the test to determine whether somebody should be treated as a refugee. For example, a press release by the United Nations in 2008 headlined, “UN assisting Iraqi Christians seeking refuge in Syria” speaks for itself. In the press release, the spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was quoted as saying, “Many Christians from Mosul have been systematically targeted recently and are no longer safe there. We are ready to provide support for those Iraqis that seek refuge in neighboring countries.”
India’s law—which names the countries of origin of refugees, takes the historical circumstances such as the partition of India into account, and excludes people who belong to groups that created the problem in the first place—is consistent with the criteria used by the United Nations and the International Refugee Organization. It is thus dishonest and unfair on the part of UN officials to accuse India of discriminating against Muslims for tailoring the law to aid refugees from three countries, while excluding the persecutors of minorities and those responsible for the partition of India.
The office of the UNHCR couldn’t have been clearer that it is important to craft the law precisely in this manner when it states in the context of what it terms Refugee Status Determination (RSD), “Country of Origin Information (COI) is information which is used in RSD procedures. COI reports collate relevant information on conditions in countries of origin pertinent to the assessment of claims for international protection.”
UNHCR even maintains a number of country-specific documents on its website containing the eligibility criteria for refugees from several countries. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh figure in the list of countries from which refugees are expected to flee due to religious persecution. The document on Afghanistan recommends granting asylum to religious minorities from the country and states that “widespread application of strict Shari’a law in Afghanistan” results in “members of minority faiths” facing the “risk of persecution.” The document on Pakistan describes the persecution of various religious minorities in great detail even as it excludes Sunni Muslims of the country from the list of persecuted peoples and states, “UNHCR considers that claims of members of religious minorities and their family members require particularly careful examination, as do other religion-based claims such as those made by human rights defenders, activists and lawyers who defend the human rights of members of religious minorities in Pakistan.”
Like the UN, the European Union too maintains documents describing the eligibility criteria for refugees originating in various countries on a per-country basis, but neither the UN nor EU has such documents for India as refugees are not expected to originate from India. This is because conditions in India are safe for everyone regardless of religion, race or other factors. In fact, Muslims, Christians and members of other religions from around the world yearn to live in India and enjoy the liberties and opportunities provided by the Hindu majority in India.
Interestingly, despite their anti-Hindu propaganda through other forums, European Union nations acknowledge and actually pay tribute to the concept of “Hindu majoritarianism” as the source of liberty, democracy and respect for other human beings when they explicitly label India as a “safe country of origin”. Citizens of countries that are labelled “safe country of origin,” that is, countries where there is no persecution, cannot apply for asylum in the European Union by claiming to be victims of persecution.
India’s Citizenship Amendment Act is in perfect alignment with international conventions and practices regarding refugees and displaced persons. The UN high commissioner for human rights could not have been ignorant of the international conventions and their similarities with the CAA.
OHCHR High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet chose to target Hindus and issue the inflammatory press release that seems to be carefully designed to instigate riots in India. OHCHR is known to actively collaborate with many Christian groups that prey on vulnerable asylum seekers and force them into converting to Christianity by threatening to send them back to their home countries where they will be at the mercy of their persecutors. Such was the case with many Bhutanese refugees who ended up in many countries. Another threat made to refugees, who do not comply, is the withdrawal of grant money and other forms of aid from the UN as control over such aid has been delegated to the Christian organisations with which the UN shares a revolving door through which staff members routinely change their status between being an employee of the UN and being an employee of the partner organisation. The withdrawal of aid would leave the helpless victims and their families to fend for themselves in a new country with no home or means of support. If the High Commissioner really wished to take on racial and other types of discrimination, she should put an end to such blackmail by UN’s partner organisations and corruption by her staff members, and she should also look within her own organisation and she will find that the Security Council grants veto power to only five countries and the common factor among these countries is the light skin tone of their populations and political leaders.
Before the High Commissioner acts on these suggestions, here is a piece of advice for her from a book of her own religion, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Arvind Kumar can be reached at email@example.com