"Standing Up For Minorities": Over 1,000 Scholars Back Citizenship Law
Over a thousand academicians and research scholars have in a statement expressed support to the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the amended citizenship law that fast-tracks the process of giving citizenship to persecuted non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries.
"The Act fulfils the long-standing demand of providing refuge to persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Ever since the failure of the Liaquat-Nehru pact of 1950, various leaders and political parties like the Congress, CPI(M) etc, cutting across the ideological spectrum, have demanded the grant of citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh who mostly belong to the Dalit castes," said the statement whose signatories include Jawaharlal Nehru University registrar Pramod Kumar, senior journalists Swapan Dasgupta and Kanchan Gupta, and Nalanda University vice chancellor Sunaina Singh.
"We congratulate the Indian parliament and government for standing up for forgotten minorities and upholding the civilizational ethos of India; providing a haven to those fleeing religious persecution," they said in the statement that contains the names of 1,100 people, who include researchers and scholars in universities in other countries.
Protests have been going on intermittently at several parts of the country - Assam and West Bengal have seen large-scale violence - after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill sailed through both houses of parliament last week. Over 15 have died in the protests across India.
Protesters in Assam, Meghalaya and other states in the north-east say tribes may be overrun by new refugee-turned-citizens in the long run and they could lose political representation. The government has said the interests of the north-east states will not be harmed by the amended law.
"We also note with satisfaction that the concerns of the North-Eastern states have been heard and are being addressed appropriately. We believe that CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) is in perfect sync with the secular constitution of India as it does not prevent any person of any religion from any country, seeking Indian citizenship. Nor does it change the criteria of citizenship in any way; merely providing a special expedited redress, under special circumstances..." the statement said.
"We also note with deep anguish, that an atmosphere of fear and paranoia is being created in the country through deliberate obfuscation and fear-mongering leading to violence in several parts of the country. We appeal to every section of society to exercise restraint and refuse to fall into the trap of propaganda, communalism and anarchism," it said.
The Congress and other opposition parties have alleged the government is working to divide people on the basis of religion. "The Modi government has no compassion when it comes to shutting down people's voices... We have an example in Delhi where Police entered the Jamia women hostel and dragged them out, it mercilessly beat students," Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Friday.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from the three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India before 2015 because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the Constitution.