Calling the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 "divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional", more than 600 prominent individuals including writers, artistes, former judges and officials have urged the government to withdraw the proposed law which promises citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from three neighbouring countries.
The signatories of the appeal include writers Nayantara Sahgal, Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh; artistes such as TM Krishna, Sudhir Patwardhan and Nilima Sheikh; filmmakers such as Aparna Sen, Nandita Das and Anand Patwardhan; scholars such as Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and Ramachandra Guha; activists such as Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy and Bezwada Wilson; and others including (Retd) Justice AP Shah, Yogendra Yadav, GN Devy, Nandini Sundar and Wajahat Habibullah.
Asserting that India's constitution "insists on the fundamentals of equality, regardless of gender, caste, religion, class, community or language", the intellectuals said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB "will, along with a nationwide NRC (National Register of Citizens), bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage, fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic."
"This is why they, and all citizens of conscience, demand that the government withdraw the Bill. This is why they demand that the government not betray the constitution," the statement said.
The CAB, introduced by Home Minister Amit Shah, was cleared by the Lok Sabha amid raucous 12-hour debate around midnight on Monday. Opposition parties stood against the proposed law that would, for the first time, create a legal pathway to grant Indian nationality on the basis of religion.
The bill proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015. Oppositions politicians inside parliament, and protesters in several Indian cities, said the bill discriminated against Muslims and violated India's secular constitution.
The ruling BJP, which had included the CAB as part of its manifesto in the last general election, insist that it is necessary. "In these three countries, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians, followers of these six religions have been tormented," Amit Shah said in Lok Sabha.