NEW DELHI – Calling the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional”, more than 600 prominent individuals including writers, artistes, former judges and officials have urged the government to withdraw the controversial bill which promises citizenship on the basis of religion.
The signatories of the appeal include writers Nayantara Sahgal, Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh; artistes such as TM Krishna, Sudhir Patwardhan and Nilima Sheikh; filmmakers such as Aparna Sen, Nandita Das and Anand Patwardhan; scholars such as Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and Ramachandra Guha; activists such as Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy and Bezwada Wilson; and others including (Retd) Justice AP Shah, Yogendra Yadav, GN Devy, Nandini Sundar and Wajahat Habibullah.
“All of us from the cultural and academic communities condemn this bill as divisive, discriminatory and unconstitutional. It will, along with a nationwide NRC, bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage, fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic. This is why we demand that the government withdraw the bill.
“This is why we demand that the government not betray the Constitution. We call on all people of conscience to insist that the Constitutional commitment to an equal and secular citizenry be honoured,” the letter states.
Asserting that India’s constitution “insists on the fundamentals of equality, regardless of gender, caste, religion, class, community or language”, the intellectuals said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB “will, along with a nationwide NRC (National Register of Citizens), bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage, fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”
“This is why they, and all citizens of conscience, demand that the government withdraw the Bill. This is why they demand that the government not betray the constitution,” the statement said.
The CAB, introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, was cleared by the Lok Sabha amid raucous 12-hour debate around midnight on Monday. Opposition parties stood against the proposed law that would, for the first time, create a legal pathway to grant Indian nationality on the basis of religion.
The bill proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015. Oppositions politicians inside parliament, and protesters in several Indian cities, said the bill discriminated against Muslims and violated India’s secular constitution.
Why focus on only three countries as if these constitute the only possible sources of asylum-seekers?” they asked, stressing on the need to have a refugee policy in line with international law, not legislation dictated by an ideology that makes use of religion for political gains.
“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 tears to shreds the inclusive, composite vision of India that guided our freedom struggle. In the amendments it introduces to the Citizenship Act of 1955, the new Bill violates every single one of these fundamentals of the Constitution,” the letter states.