The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday and the Rajya Sabha is likely to take it up on Wednesday.
New Delhi: The Opposition parties on Tuesday termed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as “an attack on the Constitution” and described the Narendra Modi government’s efforts to get Parliament’s approval for it as “India’s tryst with bigotry and narrow-minded exclusion”. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday and the Rajya Sabha is likely to take it up on Wednesday.
Hitting out at the government, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the bill was an “attack on the Indian Constitution” and asserted that anyone supporting it was “attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation”. Notwithstanding the widespread criticism of the bill, the government is confident that it has the required numbers in the Upper House to get it passed. Mr Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, AICC general secretary, said “India’s tryst with bigotry and narrow-minded exclusion” was confirmed as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha at midnight on Monday.
“Last night at midnight, India’s tryst with bigotry and narrow minded exclusion was confirmed as the CAB was passed in the Lok Sabha. Our forefathers gave their lifeblood for our freedom,” she said in a tweet, recalling her great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech at the
midnight of August 14-15, 1947, when India rang in its Independence.
The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress said the bill was a matter of “majority versus morality” and the TMC will “make the government bleed” in its efforts towards the contentious law’s passage.
Also, over 1,000 scientists and scholars have signed a petition demanding that the bill in its current form be withdrawn, with noted academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta saying the CAB will transform India into an “unconstitutional ethnocracy”.
The scientists and academics 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. The bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan after facing religious persecution there.
Civil rights activist Harsh Mander said if the bill is passed, he will practice civil disobedience.
“I will officially register as a Muslim. I will then refuse to submit any documents to the NRC. I will finally demand the same punishment as any undocumented Muslim — detention centre & withdrawn citizenship. Join this civil disobedience,” Mr Mander tweeted.
Mr Mehta, a signatory to the petition, said the bill will convert a constitutional democracy into a unconstitutional ethnocracy. “We can debate the past forever. But with the CAB India takes a giant step to officially convert a constitutional democracy into a unconstitutional ethnocracy,” he tweeted.
Hitting out at home minister Amit Shah, who moved the bill, writer and activist Ramchandra Guha said Mr Shah was a professed Savarakrite and had no issue with Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory.
“‘Savarkar, 1943: I have no quarrel with Mr Jinnah’s two-nation theory. We Hindus are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations’. The home minister, a professed Savarkarite, has no quarrel with Mr Jinnah’s two-nation
theory either,” Mr Guha tweeted.
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, the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institute of Science, Delhi University, Chennai Mathematical Institute, International Centre for Theoretical Science, the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, the University of Bonn, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Oslo.