New Delhi: 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scientists and scholars have signed a petition demanding that the Citizenship Amendment Bill in its current form be withdrawn.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 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.
"We do not have access to the exact text of the current version of the bill. Our 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. 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. 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.
The petitioners include those affiliated to Harvard University, Masachussets 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 for its nod.