“I think what is happening is sad, primarily as
sort of someone who grew up there,” the Indian-born executive told BuzzFeed News at a Microsoft (MSFT)
event in New York on Monday. “I think it’s just bad.”
CNN Business did not attend the event, but BuzzFeed News CEO Ben Smith published a transcript
of the interview on Twitter.
India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed by parliament in December
, will fast-track citizenship for religious minorities -— including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who arrived in India before 2015.
The legislation has been met with fierce opposition from critics, who say it openly discriminates against Muslims. Some members of the minority religious group in India increasingly see themselves as second-class citizens
in the predominantly Hindu country.
government has fiercely defended the bill, saying it is intended to support religious minorities who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. But that has done little to dispel the public outcry: For weeks, violent mass protests
have erupted across the country, leaving at least 22 people
“The good news, at least as I see it, is it’s a messy democracy and people are debating it,” Nadella said Monday. “It’s not something that is hidden. It’s something that is being debated actively, but I’m definitely clear on what we stand for and what I stand for.”
Nadella, who grew up in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad before moving to the United States, also reflected on his own experience as an immigrant.
“If I had to sort of mirror what happened to me in the US, I hope that’s what happens in India,” he said.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request from CNN Business for comment. But the company issued statement
on Twitter from Nadella, who doubled down on his support for creating equal opportunities for immigrants.
“I’m shaped by my Indian heritage, growing up in a multicultural India and my immigrant experience in the United States,” he said. “My hope is for an India where an immigrant can aspire to found a prosperous startup or lead a multinational corporation benefiting Indian society and the economy at large.”
Meenakashi Lekhi, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, pushed back
against Nadella’s remarks.
The reason for the citizenship law “is to grant opportunities to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan & Afghanistan,” she tweeted.
-— CNN’s Manveena Suri contributed to this report.