New Delhi: Not to be left behind by the wave of protests and petitions being generated against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on campuses in India and abroad, a group of 1,100 “academicians, intellectuals and research scholars” has released a statement in support of the CAA.
The signatories to the statement include the former editor, Swapan Dasgupta, nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Narendra Modi government, BJP politician from West Bengal Shishir Bajoria who was nominated as chairman of IIM Shillong in 2017, Nalanda University vice-chancellor Sunaina Singh, JNU professor Ainul Hasan, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies senior fellow Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, journalist Kanchan Gupta, IGNOU professor Kapil Kumar, JNU dean of students Umesh Ashok Kadam and JNU registrar Pramod Kumar,.
The statement says “deliberate obfuscation and fear-mongering” has led to paranoia in the aftermath of the Act’s passing. It also said political parties like the Congress and CPI(M) – which are opposed to the CAA – had asked for religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh to be let in.
“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.”
The signatories appealed to every section of the society “to exercise restraint and refuse to fall into the trap of propaganda, communalism and anarchism”.
The statement also congratulated parliament for safeguarding the interests of “forgotten” minorities and “providing a haven for those fleeing religious persecution”.
Responding to the charge that the government has ignored those other than the six specified minority groups in the three countries who may be persecuted, the statement says that the CAA “does not in any way prevent Ahmadis, Hazaras, Baloch or any other denominations and ethnicities, from these same three countries, seeking citizenship through regular processes.”
This defence of the law may not quite be accurate as the CAA does not waive the ban on any such persons applying for Indian citizenship “through regular processes” who have been classified as “illegal immigrants”. The statement’s suggestion that the CAA provides “a haven for those fleeing religious persecution” is also belied by the cut-off date in the new law. Anyone from these three countries who flees persecution after December 31, 2014 will not get the benefit of the CAA’s provisions.
Two weeks ago, over 1,000 scientists and scholars signed a petition demanding that the Citizenship Amendment Act (then a Bill) be withdrawn, with noted academician Pratap Bhanu Mehta saying the legislation will transform India into an “unconstitutional ethnocracy”.
Soon afterwards, 600 artistes, writers, academicians, former judges and former bureaucrats had urged the government to withdraw the Bill, terming it as “discriminatory, divisive” and violative of the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution.