Over 900 scientists, scholars demand 'immediate withdrawal' of Citizenship Amendment Bill

Congress MP Jairam Ramesh today took to Twitter to share a statement by a group of Indian scientists and scholars. The statement, signed by over 900 individuals expresses "dismay at the reported plans to table the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 in the parliament".

The Congress has decided to opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which will be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Through this bill, Indian citizenship will be provided to the members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from the three countries to India till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution and put an end to them being treated as illegal immigrants in the country.

Ramesh took to Twitter to share the link. He wrote, "While the blatantly & brazenly unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Bill will be bulldozed by the Home Minister in Parliament, this statement by scientists & scholars gives hope that the flame of Gandhi's India still flickers & will not be extinguished."

Incidentally, the BJP has issued issued a three-line whip to its Lok Sabha MPs asking them to be present in the House, from when the bill is introduced on Monday till December 12 -- something that indicates its intent to clear the bill.

Also Read: Citizenship Bill to be tabled today in Lok Sabha, BJP issues whip to its MPs

"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 says.

In the letter the signatories admit that they do not have "access to the exact text of the current version of the Bill" and that their statement is based on media reports and the text of the previous version of the Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha in January 2019.

Earlier, on Sunday, following a parliamentary strategy group meet at Sonia Gandhi's residence in Delhi, Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "The bill is a violation of our Constitution's secular ethos, culture, tradition and civilisation, and we will oppose it.

While it does not have a majority in the Lok Sabha, the Congress may try to stall the bill in the Rajya Sabha. The party said on Sunday said that "it will move two amendments seeking deletion of reference to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and to religion in the Bill", as it wants refugees from all neighbouring countries under the ambit of the Bill.

Also Read: Congress to oppose Citizenship Amendment Bill; Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury calls it 'violation of Constitution'

The statement shared today echoes the sentiment, saying that the "use of religion as a criterion for citizenship" does not fall in line with the Indian Constitution.

"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," it said.

Citing article 14, the authors said that while it was the job of legal experts to determine whether the Bill was unconstitutional, they were of the opinion that it "violates its spirit".

In the letter shared by Ramesh, the signatories called for an "immediate withdrawal" of the bill.

They also requested it be replaced with "appropriate legislation that will address the concerns of refugees and minorities in a non-discriminatory manner".

Many others have also expressed a similar sentiment. The North East Students Organisation (NESO) has also opposed the bill and had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shah whether the government is for its own citizens or for the illegal migrants.

NESO, which is spearheading the protest against the amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955, has also called for a northeast shutdown on December 10 from 5 am to 4 pm in protest against the bill.

While the Shiv Sena has decided to back the contentious Bill, the party questioned the timing of the bill. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece 'Saamana', the Sena raised the timing of the bill saying, "There is no dearth of problems in India now but still we are inviting new ones such as CAB. It looks like the Centre has made an invisible partition of Hindus and Muslims over the bill".

"CAB is a cab ride with a divisive driver to: destabilise, destroy our polity values both societal and constitutional with an eye only on political dividends. Hath milao Desh bachao!" Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said in a tweet.

(With inputs from agencies)