Citizens for Justice and Peace

Citizenship Bill strips people of basic rights: human rights experts Human rights experts emphasise need to build pressure against the Bill from both outside and within country

13, Dec 2019 | Ajeet Mahale

Raising concerns: Teesta Setalvad and Mihir Desai at a press meet on Thursday. | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Prominent human rights and civil liberties groups condemned the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) on Thursday, saying it violates the key provisions of the Constitution, such as equality, right to life and non-discrimination.

Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad from the Citizens for Justice and Peace said, “Being a citizen gives a person the right to have rights. It is a relationship between an individual and state. If you take that away from a person, he/she can’t even demand basic fundamental rights,” she said.

Senior human rights lawyer Mihir Desai of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) said the CAB was being brought in since the government realised the National Register of Citizens (NRC) could not be used to effectively target Muslims as several Hindus were also coming under the ambit of the process and potentially faced detentions.

He said the CAB had been passed as a way to implement the NRC across the country. “Over 19 lakh people in Assam live with the sword of statelessness hanging over them. It seems the government is trying to replicate an Assam-like trauma across India.” Mr. Desai said a nationwide NRC along with the CAB will unleash widespread division and suffering.

He said the current government had been laying the groundwork for the Bill since 2015, when it made amendments to the Foreigners Order, 1948, and Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, which were in line with the provisions of the Bill.

Both activists stressed the need to build pressure from within the country and outside. Mr. Desai pointed to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, which said it was deeply concerned over the passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha.

Ms. Setalvad talked about the opposition from State governments that are not controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I think exploring internal options is very important since India has a federal structure and the constitutional amendment will have to go through State Assemblies to pass. The Bengal Assembly has passed a resolution against the NRC on September 6,” she said.

Ms. Setalvad said while protesting the Bill was the need of the hour, so was spreading awareness of its implications.

The original article may be read here.



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