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Withdraw 'discriminatory', 'divisive' citizenship bill: Artistes, writers, ex-judges to govt

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

About 600 artistes, writers, academicians, ex-judges and former bureaucrats have asked the government to withdraw the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, terming it is "discriminatory, divisive", and violative of the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution.

In an open letter, they asserted that the legislation will fundamentally alter the character of the Indian Republic and threatens the federal framework provided by the Constitution.

The signatories include historian Romila Thapar, author Amitav Ghosh, actor Nandita Das, filmmakers Aparna Sen and Anand Patwardhan, activists Yogendra Yadav Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy and Bezwada Wilson, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah and the country's first CIC Wajahat Habibullah among others.

"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.

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

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.

If religious persecution was the logic presented in the bill, then why were refugees such as Rohingyas from Myanmar or Hindu or Muslim Tamils from Sri Lanka or Ahmadis from Pakistan left out, they asked.

"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 a 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.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, December 10 2019. 20:55 IST