There have been several protests against the citizenship (amendment) bill (now Act), and there will be many more. This piece of legislation strikes at the heart of the Constitution, seeking to create India another country. It is thus that people from so many different walks of life have raised their voices .
Among these dissenting voices are a apolitical community known to arrange collective campaigns of protest, scientists. As it was being presented in Parliament some thousand-odd faculty members and doctoral students, working in our top academic institutions, signed a petition.
Their petition said -“The idea of India that arose from the independence movement, and as enshrined in our constitution, is that of a nation 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 structure of the constitution. We fear, specifically, the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of this Bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the nation.” The scientists asked 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.”
The signatories to the petition contained several Fellows of the Royal Society (the most prestigious scientific body in the world, of which just a handful of Indians are members), Directors of our few world-class research institutes, and Professors and PhD scholars from all the Indian Institutes of Technology.
This writer comes from a family of scientists, although himself a historian. Within my research career, I have had the privilege of working closely, and over a period of 35 years, with some of the best minds in Indian science. From this experience, I can say that the statement is unprecedented. For these are not human rights activists or JNU jholawalas with unfailing regularity or artists, who organize and participate in signature campaigns. That so many scientists, respected and recognized as well as emerging and talented, have come together to protest about a law in public is very striking indeed.
He points out that discrimination based on religion is bad for science as well as for society. For”academics want to have an environment in which everybody is recognised according to their talent without prejudice, any discrimination, because science works best when everyone with the ability is permitted to contribute.”
He gives talks throughout the country, travels to India annually, attends conferences, and speaks to Indians of all ages and backgrounds. It is on the basis of this first-hand knowledge that he states:”Young people in India are very enterprising, working under tough circumstances hoping to do something, and that which we don’t want is to be distracted from that assignment of nation-building by creating divisions within the country.”