Over 1,000 Indian scientists and scholars have asked the Narendra Modi government to immediately withdraw the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, arguing that the proposed law uses religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship which is in contravention of the basic structure of India’s Constitution.
In a joint statement signed in their personal capacity by 1,060 scientists and scholars by Monday evening, they have said that they “find it deeply troubling that the Bill uses religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship”.
“We understand that the Bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The stated intent of the Bill is to provide refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries. While we support this laudable objective, we find it deeply troubling that the Bill uses religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship,” the statement read.
“The idea of India that emerged from the independence movement, and as enshrined in our Constitution, is that of a country that aspires to treat people of all faiths equally. The use of religion as a criterion for citizenship in the proposed bill would mark a radical break with this history and would be inconsistent with the basic structure of the Constitution,” it added.
The statement pointed out that Article 14 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the State from denying “to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.
“We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the Bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country,” the statement said.
“For the reasons mentioned above, we call for the immediate withdrawal of this bill and as its replacement request for appropriate legislation that will address the concerns of refugees and minorities in a non-discriminatory manner,” it said.