Over 1,000 scientists, scholars demand withdrawal of Citizenship Bill

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, petition, scientists, scholars, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, non-Muslim refugees, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan after facing religious persecution there. Representational image: PTI

Over 1,000 scientists and scholars have signed a petition demanding that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in its current form be withdrawn.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill a little past midnight on Monday (December 9) after a heated debate that lasted over seven hours. It seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan after facing religious persecution there.

“We are issuing this statement in our personal capacity as concerned citizens to express our dismay at the reported plans to table the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Parliament,” said the petition that was signed on Monday before the bill was tabled.

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“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. 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 petition noted.

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The petitioners include those affiliated to Harvard University, Massachusetts University, Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, Indian Institute of Science, Delhi University, Chennai Mathematical Institute, International Centre for Theoretical Science, Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, the University of Bonn, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Oslo.

According to the proposed legislation, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014 facing religious persecution there, will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

The bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha with 311 members favouring it and 80 voting against it, will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday (December 11) for its nod.

(With inputs from agencies)

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