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Over 1,000 scientists, scholars demand withdrawal of Bill

New Delhi: Over 1,000 scientists and scholars have signed a petition demanding that the Citizenship Amendment Bill in its current form be withdrawn, with noted academician Pratap Bhanu Mehta saying the legislation will transform India into an “unconstitutional ethnocracy”.

The scientists and academicians said the use of religion as a criterion for citizenship in the proposed Bill would mark a radical break and would be inconsistent with the basic structure of the Constitution.

After the passage of the legislation in the Lower House, civil rights activist Harsh Mander said if the Bill is passed, he will practise civil disobedience. “I will officially register as a Muslim. I will then refuse to submit any documents to NRC. I will finally demand the same punishment as any undocumented Muslim – detention centre and withdrawn citizenship. Join this civil disobedience,” Mander tweeted.

Mehta, a signatory to the petition, said the Citizenship Bill will convert a constitutional democracy into an unconstitutional ethnocracy. “We can debate the past forever. But with CAB India takes a giant step to officially convert a constitutional democracy into an unconstitutional ethnocracy,” he tweeted.

Academician Ramchandra Guha hit out at Home Minister Amit Shah and said he was a professed Savarakrite and had no issue with Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory. 

The petition said the idea of India emerged from the independence movement, and as enshrined in 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, Massachussets 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.

Meanwhile, around 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 threaten 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, Aruna Roy and Bezwada Wilson, former Delhi High Court chief justice A P Shah and the country’s first Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah among others.

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