New Delhi: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in Parliament earlier this week and became an Act after President of India’s assent, is drawing criticism from across the country and abroad.
State chief ministers
Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday called the Citizenship Act “an anti-Constitutional law” and said it will have no place in his state. Indian Express quoted him as saying, “The Supreme Court had made it clear on several occasions that the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be undermined. So, it is clear that this law will not stand legal scrutiny. When that is evident, there are heinous political aims behind passing anti-Constitutional laws using the arrogance of power…Kerala will not implement it. Discrimination based on religion will not be allowed.” Vijayan said that the Modi government is trying to realise the dream of Savarkar and Golwalkar with the amendment. He described the Act as an offspring of a concerted attempt to sabotage equality and secularism, the basic tenets of the Constitution.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also described CAB as a direct assault on India’s secular character and said his government will not let the legislation be implemented in Punjab. He said, “We have a majority in the Assembly, and will block the Bill. We will not let it rip apart the secular fabric of the country, whose strength lies in its diversity.”
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel described the CAB as clearly unconstitutional.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the CAB was yet another attempt by the BJP to advance its agenda of Hindu Rashtra.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the central government will not be allowed to divide the country. She is quoted to have said, “You can pass laws in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha forcefully because you have the numbers. But we will not let you divide the country. If everyone keeps shut, I tell you, even if I have to die for this, I will.”
BJP & allies
Even BJP leader and Assam Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami said that the doubts expressed over the Citizenship Act not baseless. He expressed fear that there is a strong possibility of it creating division if implemented.
“After the passage of the bill by the Rajya Sabha yesterday, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has become an act. Though I should not comment on the Act as I am discharging Constitutional duties as Speaker, but as a person working for the nation and community through the Assam agitation, I feel that the doubt created by this act is not baseless,” he is quoted to have said.
Birendra Prasad Baishya, Rajya Sabha member of the Asom Gana Parishad, a coalition partner in the NDA also registered his opposition to the Bill saying that it would cause grave threat to the language and culture of the people of Assam.
Congress to challenge it in court
Claiming that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is “highly suspect” in terms of constitutionality, senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi on Wednesday had said that it will be challenged in court in the near future.
Amnesty International India
Calling the Citizenship Act a bigoted law, Amnesty International India urged to repeal it immediately. It noted, “The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed today by the Indian Parliament legitimises discrimination on the basis of religion and stands in clear violation of the Constitution of India and international human rights law.”
While acknowledging that allowing asylum seekers entry is a welcome step Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty India said disallowing the same for persecuted Muslims in a secular country like India reeked of “fear-mongering and bigotry”.
Amnesty condemned exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamils and Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar from the purview of the amendment. It noted Sri Lankan Tamils form the largest refugee group in India and have been living in the country for over three decades and Rohingya Muslims are described as the ‘world’s most persecuted minority’ by the United Nations. It also mentioned other persecuted Muslims like Ahmadiyyas of Pakistan, Bihari Muslims of Bangladesh and Hazaras of Pakistan.
US lawmakers call it draconian
U.S. lawmakers have also raised concerns about the implications of the Bill which has become a law. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, issued a statement saying, “Today, we witness yet another potentially devastating move by the Prime Minister, as lawmakers enacted his draconian Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. However, this action is not unexpected, considering the history of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its connections to strident communalism. This is yet another attempt to effectively reduce Muslims in India to second-class citizens.”
Mr Carson added, “In other cases, Modi has targeted India’s minority Muslim community, which identifies as uniquely Indian, with citizenship tests in a blatant attempt to deny that community’s constitutional rights and liberty…, as well as its sense of place. These citizenship “exercises” and new laws strike at the heart of India’s founding tradition as a multicultural society.”
The Citizenship Act aims to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis — leaving out Muslims — who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014.