The Hindu – India-Pakistan situation has impacted Afghanistan, says Hamid Karzai

Dinakar Peri

New Delhi – India, 16 January 2020. We are the best of friends with India, but how do we convey to Pakistan that we can be the best of brothers at the same time, asks the former Afghan president, the India-Pakistan situation has impacted Afghanistan at the Raisina Dialogue.

The unfortunate situation between India and Pakistan had impacted Afghanistan “tremendously”, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday. “We are the best of friends with India,” Mr. Karzai said adding, “but how do we convey to Pakistan that we can be the best of brothers at the same time.”

Speaking at the ongoing Raisina Dialogue jointly organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation, he said there was no other way for Afghanistan, “we need the peace process to be successful.”

Asked about the troubled relationship with Pakistan, Mr Karzai said there were two sides to it. “Pakistani people received us as refugees with open arms, we’re grateful for that.

On the other hand, we have serious complaints with the Pakistan government and military on the issue of terrorism,” he stated adding they too in Afghanistan perhaps made some mistakes in managing the relationship.

Terming Iran and Pakistan the most consequential relationships for Afghanistan, he said, “We cannot have peace in Afghanistan, unless we have the best of relationships in Pakistan.”

On the issue of continued USA military presence in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai said a vast majority of people would agree with a USA presence in Afghanistan as long as the “Afghan people are given the legitimacy to live in a dignified way, and politics and institutions in Afghanistan are not interfered with.”

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-pakistan-situation-has-impacted-afghanistan-says-hamid-karzai/article30574878.ece

Tolo News – Afghanistan has over 2.5 Million drug users: Official

Officials said there is a need for more job opportunities for youth in order to curb illicit drug addiction.

Fariba Sadat

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 10 January 2019. Figures by the Ministry of Public Health reveal that Afghanistan has more than 2.5 million illicit drug users, and at least 500,000 of them are addicts.

An official at the ministry said the capacity of rehabilitation centers countrywide has increased to over 40,000 patients, from 2,000 five years ago. The official said that in order to overcome the problem, there is a need to curb drug trafficking.

“These 2.5 million are in 34 provinces of Afghanistan, mostly in villages rather than urban areas,” he said, adding: “Widespread precautionary measures are required to curb drug addiction.” He suggested that job opportunities and facilities for entertainment and sports should be provided for youth to keep them away from drugs.

Kabul has many areas where drug addicts are often seen. One of these drug addicts, Ali Reza, 28, said they have “easy access” to drugs in the city and that he became an addict when he was 13. “I want to be treated. I want to rejoin the society,” he said.

“I have not visited any rehabilitation center because people say that these centers are not providing good services,” said Nawroz, a drug addict. The presence of drug addicts in some Kabul streets has created problems for residents.

“People’s belongings are stolen. People have complaints. They are tired of them (presence of drug addicts),” said Mohammad Hussain, a Kabul resident. “There is a need for proper action by the government against drug traffickers,” said Rajab Ali, a Kabul resident.

Afghanistan has been among the world’s top illicit drug-producing countries.

Reports indicate that poppy cultivation and drug trafficking provides a big income source for the Taliban, mainly in the southern and northern parts of the country.

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/afghanistan-has-over-25m-drug-users-official

Tolo News – Ex-Guantanamo Prisoner: “My world was very small”

Obaidullah was eighteen years old when he was arrested by US forces, now he is 36

“I was looking at the moon from the window of the cell where I was imprisoned,” said Obaidullah, a former Taliban member, who was released last week from the Guantanamo Bay detention center and reintegrated with his family in Khost province after nearly two decades of separation.

Khost – Afghanistan, 02 January 2019. Obaidullah, now 36, was just eighteen years old when he was detained and he has spent nearly half of his life in US custody.

“I was associated with the Taliban only for a short period of time. I was serving in the Taliban’s military section, therefore I was arrested by the American forces,” the former Taliban member told TOLOnews’ Sharif Amiri.

“They (US forces) imposed on us the most brutal acts during our detention as if we were the most dangerous criminals. I had no hope that someday I would rejoin my family,” said Osman, Obaidullah’s cousin who was also released from the US jail after three months from Bagram prison.

Obaidullah’s family said that his release was a dream for them.

“We had no information about Obaidullah for two and half years, however, there were some rumors in the media that he was transferred to Guantanamo prison, but we received a letter from him after two and half a years, then the letters started coming from him more regularly with the help of ICRC and then we started having online calls,” said Mohammad Akram, Obaidullah’s brother.

Obaidullah was eighteen years old when he was arrested by US forces. Obaidullah became the father of a baby girl only three days before his arrest. However, he was always living with her memories in the jail.

“I want my children to go to school and study, because we cannot achieve development without learning. Afghanistan needs its children to study and become educated,” said Obaidullah.

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/ex-gitmo-prisoner-%E2%80%9Cmy-world-was-very-small%E2%80%9D

Tolo News – Taliban-Controlled District in Nangarhar Cleared

Security officials in the east warned the Taliban to join the peace process or be eliminated.

Ghafoor Saboory

Sherzad district – Nangarhar – Afghanistan, 23 December 2019. Security officials in Nangarhar province on Tuesday said that Sherzad district was fully cleared of the Taliban as the result of a two-month-long military operation. District governor Mubarez Khadem said that during the operation areas had been cleared that had been under Taliban control for the past ten years.

Khadem said that security forces are ready to respond to any attack by the Taliban. “Sometimes the enemy returns but when they do we mount strong operations against them,” said Khadem. “Security forces fought with the enemy and cleared the area with a sucessful operation conducted by joint Afghan security forces.

Soon people of Hasarak and Khogyani districts will also live in a safe environment and their children will resume their education, like normal,” said Mohammad Ayoub Hussainkhail, commander of the Afghan border forces in the east.

Hussainkhail also called on Taliban members to join the peace process or they will be eliminated. Officials claimed that the Taliban have suffered heavy casualties but are not giving details.

Military officials pledged that military operations will also be conducted in the Hasarak district to eliminate insurgents. No details were provided regarding the casualties of the security forces.

The Taliban have yet to comment about the officials’ claims.

https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/taliban-controlled-district-nangarhar-cleared

The Asian Age – Bajwa writes to President, seeks CAA expansion to include Ahmadiyyas too

New Delhi – India, 22 December 2019. Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa on Sunday urged President Ram Nath Kovind to have the ambit of new citizenship law expanded to include in it Ahmadiyya community too, facing persecution in Pakistan.

Bajwa made the request to the president in a letter to him.

Amid the widespread protest against the amendment to the citizenship law, Bajwa argued that the Government needs to undertake the humanitarian step for Amhadiyyas, who have had to flee Pakistan following persistent persecution.

“Ethos of india has always been to protect the oppressed. Through the history of modern india we have strived to create a functioning nation that celebrates unity in diversity. We have protected minorities and done our best to bring out these qualities in our democratic institutions,” Bajwa said in his letter to the president.

He said this being the 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi, “I urge you to bring this to the notice of the government. It is my hope that the Government will continue to protect those who are oppressed and persecuted around us and look at expanding the ambit of the Citizenship Amendment Act under your directions.”

Bajwa said the CAA requires further scrutiny as it fails to account for a myriad of communities facing persecution in our neighbourhood.

“The Ahmadiyyas of Qadian are one such community which has faced persecution in Pakistan since 1953. In 1974 the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed the second amendment to the Pakistan constitution which in effect declared Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslim. In 1984, Zia-Ul-Haq passed an ordinance that prohibited Ahmadiyyas from identifying themselves as Muslims,” wrote the Congress MP.

He said over the years this community has seen its members being stoned to death.

“Even the tomb stone of Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam, an Ahmadiyya, was desecrated and the word ‘Muslim’ written on its cover was removed. The persecution faced by Ahmadiyyas requires humanitarian action by our government,” said Bajwa.

“My letter to President Ram Nath Kovind ji on the issue that Ahmadiyyas have faced persecution in Pakistan since 1953 and that Pakistani State doesn’t recognize them as Muslims. My request is to expand the ambit of CAA Act and include Ahmadiyya sect among 6 communities eligible for citizenship,” he said on Twitter.

Bajwa has earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard.

What about Shia Hazaras from Pakistan and Afghanistan ?
Man in Blue

https://www.asianage.com/india/politics/221219/bajwa-writes-to-prez-seeks-caa-expansion-to-include-ahmadiyyas-too.html

World Sikh News appeals to endorse appeal to review Citizenship Amendment Act

Published 16 December – Jagmohan Singh

Human rights bodies: Human Rights Defenders’ Alert–India (HRDA), Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and United Against Hate (UAH), in collaboration with People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) will be writing to India’s National Human Rights Commission seeing review of the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian Parliament.

The World Sikh News appeals to you to endorse the petition.

The deadline for endorsements: 9 PM, Tuesday, 17 December 2019′

The time is now ! The people of India, especially Muslims and more especially Muslim students are facing the wrath of the barbaric state machinery, which was evidenced in the last night attack by the Delhi Police on students within the library of the Jamia Milia University in Delhi.

To stop the fires of divisiveness from choking the rights of the people, The World of Sikh News appeals to readers to endorse the petition prepared by committed human rights activists and organisations.

Please share with friends and associates. The opening paragraph is mentioned here. The appeal is exhaustive and complete.

Go to the WSN website to endorse the appeal
http://www.theworldsikhnews.com/

To
The Chairperson and Members
National Human Rights Commission
New Delhi.

Subject: Urging the NHRC to exercise Section 12 (d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act and review the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

Respected Sirs and Madam,

We, the concerned citizens, write to you today regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA), passed by the Indian Parliament on 11 December 2019 and received President’s assent on 12 December 2019. CAA violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. This when coupled with the National Register of Citizenship exercise, which is to be undertaken nationally, violates not only Article 14 but also Articles 15 and 21.

WSN appeals to endorse appeal to review Citizenship Amendment Act

The Tribune – Dal Khalsa hits out at SAD over citizenship Act

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – india, 15 December 2019. Lambasting the SAD for endorsing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Sikh political and radical parties have argued that the decision was against the spirit and constitution of the Akalis.

Deriding the SAD leaders, who celebrated the 99th foundation day and re-nominated Sukhbir Singh Badal as party chief here on Saturday, Kanwar Pal Singh of the Dal Khalsa said earlier SAD had backed the BJP in depriving J&K of its special status and now it had supported the Centre in excluding Muslims from the Citizenship Act.

The decisions were against the spirit and constitution of SAD and also deviated from the Constitution, he said.

Kanwal Pal said SAD had lost the moral right to demand political autonomy for Punjab by endorsing these decisions. Abrogation of Article 370, Ayodhya verdict and CAA were all leading India to a theological state of one religion, he said.

“Just because the Sikhs are protected under the CAA does not mean that we do not understand the malafide intention of the Centre led by the ‘fascist’ RSS and BJP.”

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/dal-khalsa-hits-out-at-sad-over-citizenship-act-11363

The Hindu – In the name of a majority

The NRC in Assam has given us an indication of risks involved in such exercises of inclusion and exclusion

Anupama Roy

Op/Ed, 13 December 2019. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), passed in both Houses this week, promises to give the protection of citizenship to non-Muslims who fled to India to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

While religious persecution is a reasonable ground for protection, the problem with the CAB is that it does not include all communities that suffered religious persecution, and explicitly excludes Muslims who suffered persecution in the specified countries and other non-Muslim majority countries like Myanmar.

This majoritarian notion of religion-based citizenship, although intrinsic to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s idea of India, is not shared by the majority of people in this country. In addition, such a view is alien to the constitutional consensus which emerged in 1950, embodying the idea of a people who committed themselves, and those governing on their behalf, to a constitutional order.

Those in support of the CAB have rallied around the argument that it is non-discriminatory and its objectives are justifiable. In doing so, they have often invoked the moral imperative of correcting a perceived past wrong, in this case the Partition. In the process, the CAB changes completely the idea of equal and inclusive citizenship promised in the Constitution.

Changes in citizenship law

The CAB cannot, however, be seen in isolation. It must be seen in tandem with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and other changes in the citizenship law, which have preceded it. The Home Minister and the Law Minister have clarified that the CAB and the NRC are distinct, the NRC protects the country against illegal migrants and the CAB protects refugees.

This, however, is incommensurate with the election speeches made by BJP leaders. For instance, speaking in Kolkata earlier this year, Amit Shah had promised an NRC in West Bengal, but only after the passage of the CAB to ensure that no Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Christian refugee is denied citizenship for being an illegal immigrant.

In a triumphal note after the passage of the CAB in Lok Sabha, Mr Shah declared that a nationwide NRC would follow soon.

Despite their seemingly disparate and adversarial political imperatives, the CAB and the NRC have become conjoined in their articulation of citizenship. Indeed, the two represent the tendency towards ‘jus sanguinis’ in the citizenship law in India, which commenced in 1986, became definitive in 2003, and has reached its culmination in the contemporary moment.

In 2003, the insertion of the category ‘illegal migrants’ in the provision of citizenship by birth became the hinge from which the NRC and the CAB later emerged.

The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules of 2003 made the registration of all citizens of India, issue of national identity cards, the maintenance of a national population register, and the establishment of an NRC by the Central government compulsory.

Under these rules, the Registrar General of Citizen Registration is to collect particulars of individuals and families, including their citizenship status, through a ‘house-to-house enumeration’.

In an exception to the general rule, Assam has followed a different procedure of ‘inviting applications’ with particulars of each family and individual and their citizenship status based on the NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971.

The purpose of the NRC is to sift out ‘foreigners’ and ‘illegal migrants’, who were referred to at different points as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘aggressors’, and a threat to the territory and people of India.

Exempting minority groups

The second strand emerging from the 2003 amendment has taken the form of the CAB, which exempts ‘minority communities’, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians, from three countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, from the category of ‘illegal migrants’.

The CAB brings the citizenship law in line with exemptions already made in the Passport Act 1920 and Foreigners Act 1946 through executive orders in September 2015 and July 2016. It sets a cut-off date of December 31, 2014 as the date of eligibility of illegal migrants for exemption.

It must be noted that a PIL filed by the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha pending before the Supreme Court has contested the deviation in the cut-off date set for Assam by the Citizenship Amendment Act 1986, March 24, 1971, from the date specified in Article 6 of the Constitution, i.e., July 19, 1948, which applies to the rest of the country.

The CAB is applicable to entire India, and takes the cut-off date forward by several years.

The claim that the CAB does not violate the Constitution is reflective of the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The JPC was advised by constitutional experts to use a broader category, ‘persecuted minorities’, to protect the Bill from the charge of violating the right to equality in Article 14.

The CAB uses the category ‘minority communities’ and goes on to identify them on the ground of religion. The notifications of September 2015 and July 2016, which changed the Passport and Foreigners Acts, had mentioned the term ‘religious persecution’.

The consideration of religious persecution for making a distinction among persons, the JPC argued, could not be discriminatory, because the distinction was both intelligible and reasonable, satisfying the standards laid down in the Supreme Court judgment in State of West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkarhabib (1952) to affirm adherence to Article 14.

Test of reasonableness

The JPC appears, however, to have overlooked the substantive conditions that the Supreme Court laid down in the same verdict. These require that the criteria of intelligibility of the differentia and the reasonableness of classification, must satisfy both grounds of protection guaranteed by Article 14, i.e., protection against discrimination and protection against the arbitrary exercise of state power.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court judgement in Naz Foundation vs Government of NCT of Delhi referred to “a catena of decisions” to lay down a further test of reasonableness, requiring that the objective for such classification in any law must also be subjected to judicial scrutiny.

The restraint on state arbitrariness, according to the judgment, was to come from constitutional morality, which as B R Ambdkar declared in the Constituent Assembly, was the responsibility of the state to protect.

It remains a puzzle as to why the government wishes to change the citizenship law to address the problem of refugees. The JPC refers to standard operating procedures for addressing the concerns of refugees from neighbouring countries.

In the case of refugees from the erstwhile West Pakistan who deposed before the JPC in favour of a CAB, the standard operating procedure was the grant of long-term visas leading to citizenship.

One wonders how these refugees will benefit from a law which will put them through an arduous process of proving religious persecution. Immediately after Partition, ‘displaced persons’ constituted an administrative category, and citizenship files of 1950s tell us how district officials expedited their citizenship in the process of preparation of electoral rolls.

The focus in the recent parliamentary debates, for various reasons, was the eastern borders. States in the region have resisted the CAB, and simultaneously asked for an NRC. West Bengal has been an exception. The reality of imposing a national order of things, through a CAB and an NRC, in non-national spaces will unfold in future but Assam has given us adequate evidence of the risks involved.

It can only be hoped that the judiciary and civil society are able to restore constitutional and democratic politics through an exercise of counter-majoritarian power in a context where electoral gains have determined political choices.

Anupama Roy teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/in-the-name-of-a-majority/article30289562.ece?homepage=true

BBC News – Citizenship Amendment Bill: Are India’s claims about minorities in other countries true?

Reality Check team BBC News

New Delhi – India, 12 December 2019. The Indian government has introduced a controversial bill offering citizenship to illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries if they belong to non-Muslim minority groups.

Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who have entered India illegally can apply for citizenship if they can prove they originate from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.

The government argues that minorities in those countries are dwindling, and that they face persecution on the grounds of their faith.

The legislation has been criticised as discriminatory in India because it excludes Muslims seeking citizenship as well.

So what is the situation facing non-Muslims in those three neighbouring states?

How many non-Muslims?

Amit Shah, India’s Home Minister, says Pakistan’s non-Muslim population has dwindled dramatically since 1951. This follows the mass exodus of non-Muslims from Pakistan after partition in 1947 and the flight of Muslims from India to Pakistan.

Mr Shah cited a remaining minority population in Pakistan of 23% in 1951, and he says this has shrunk over the decades due to persecution.

But Mr Shah’s figures need to be challenged as he appears to have combined the data for what is now the state of Pakistan (formerly west Pakistan) with what is now Bangladesh (formerly east Pakistan).

Census data for 1998 shows that the Hindu population of Pakistan (which was formerly west Pakistan) had not really changed significantly from its 1951 level of around 1.5 to 2%.

But the data also suggests that the Hindu population of Bangladesh did fall, from around 22% or 23% in 1951 to around 8% in 2011.

There are other non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh, such as Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Parsis. And in Pakistan, there are also Ahmadis, who were declared non-Muslim by the government in the 1970s, and are estimated to be around four million strong, making them the largest religious minority in the country.

In Afghanistan, non-Muslim groups include Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais and Christians, and make up less than 0.3% of the population. In 2018, there were just 700 Sikhs and Hindus left in Afghanistan as families had been leaving because of the conflict there, according to a report for the US State Department.

What’s the official status of non-Muslims?

The Indian government’s citizenship bill states: “The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries”.

It’s true that the state religion of Pakistan is Islam. Afghanistan is also an Islamic state.

In Bangladesh the situation is more complicated. The country came into being in 1971 with a secular constitution, but in 1988 Islam was made the official state religion.

A lengthy legal battle to get that reversed ended in 2016 when Bangladesh’s top court ruled that Islam should remain the state religion.

However, all these countries have constitutional provisions stating that non-Muslims have rights and are free to practise their faith. And individual Hindus have risen to prominent positions in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, notably as chief justices in the two countries.

Do the minorities face discrimination?

In practice, non-Muslim minorities do face discrimination and persecution.

What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?

Human rights group Amnesty International has pointed to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which it says “are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution of religious minorities”.

Pakistani Hindus who moved to India in recent years told the BBC they face social and religious discrimination, with a particular issue being the targeting of Hindu girls in Sindh province.

But it’s also true that Ahmadis, who are not covered by India’s citizenship bill, face discrimination for their beliefs as they are regarded as heretical by the Muslim majority.

And the majority of blasphemy cases up to 2018 had been filed against other Muslims and Ahmadis, not against Christians or Hindus.

In Bangladesh, there are various reasons for the decline in the proportion of Hindus over the years. The better-off Hindu population have had their homes and businesses targeted, sometimes in attempts to get them to leave so their land or assets can be taken over. Hindus have also been the targets of attacks by religious militants.

The Bangladesh government has rejected India’s claims about minorities being targeted. Foreign Minister Abdul Monem told the BBC: “We don’t have examples of minorities being persecuted in this country.”

According to UN data, the number of refugees in India went up by 17% between 2016-19. As of August this year, the biggest numbers registered with the UN were actually from Tibet and Sri Lanka.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-50720273

The Print – Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution

Read full text of statement signed by more than 1,000 scientists & scholars who say they find it troubling that bill uses    religion as a criterion to determine citizenship.

Bengaluru -Karnataka – India, 09 December 2019. In a statement circulated online, more than 1,000 Indian scientists and scholars from the country and abroad have released a statement opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill tabled Lok Sabha by the Narendra Modi government Monday.

The 2019 bill, which was approved by the Union cabinet on 4 December, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there.

In the statement, the scientists have argued that the “use of religion as a criterion for citizenship” would be a “radical break” with the idea of independent, post-colonial India. The bill is a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 and would reduce the residence period in India from 11 years to six years to obtain citizenship.

Drafted over the weekend, tT. These include scientists and research scholars from institutions such as various IITs, the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS, Bengaluru), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, Mumbai), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Indian Statistical Institute, and different IISERs as well as international institutes such as Harvard University, University of Chicago, University of Toronto, Nikhef Amsterdam, and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics.

Signatories also include directors of major research institutions, such as Rajesh Gopakumar of ICTS, Sandip Trivedi of TIFR, and Atish Dabholkar of International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italy.

We are a group of Indian scientists and scholars

We are issuing this statement in our personal capacity as concerned citizens to express our dismay at the reported plans to table the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 in the parliament. We do not have access to the exact text of the current version of the Bill.

Our statement is based on media reports and the text of the previous version of the Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha in January 2019. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to issue this statement already at this point of time in view of the reports that the Bill may be tabled in parliament early next week and may be taken up for voting in both houses soon after.

We understand that the Bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The stated intent of the Bill is to provide refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries.

While we support this laudable objective, we find it deeply troubling that the Bill uses religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship.

The idea of India that emerged from the independence movement, and as enshrined in our 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.

We note that article 14 of the Indian constitution prohibits the State from denying “to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” While it is the job of legal experts to determine whether this draft bill violates the letter of the constitution, it seems certain to us that it violates its spirit.

For the reasons mentioned above, we call for the immediate withdrawal of this bill and as its replacement request for appropriate legislation that will address the concerns of refugees and minorities in a non-discriminatory manner.

Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution