Guwahati, Sep 10
Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s comment on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, during his two-day visit to Assam has sparked fresh opposition in the State against the controversial legislation.
During his address at the fourth conclave of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a BJP-led front of parties from the region, in Guwahati on Monday, Shah had indicated that the Centre plans to enact the Bill.
“There is a worry about what will happen to Article 371 and provisions like Inner Line Permits [documents allowing travel to protected areas] once CAB is enacted. I want to clarify there’s no plan to tamper with Article 371. Even if CAB is enacted, it won’t affect provisions of Article 371, the Centre would take care of it,” the Home Minister had said.
The legislation, which proposes to set new terms to provide citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, lapsed earlier this year after the BJP-led Centre did not table it in the Rajya Sabha. Now, the Government wants to reintroduce the Bill in Parliament.
“Shah’s comment on reintroducing CAB in Parliament is not acceptable to us. The legislation goes against the idea of secularism in our Constitution and also the Assam Accord. We will oppose it tooth and nail,” said Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of All Assam Students Union (AASU), the State’s biggest student body.
AASU, which had spearheaded a six-year agitation against foreigners, had protested against CAB across Assam earlier this year. The six-year agitation had ended in 1985 with the signing of the Assam Accord.
“The Assam Congress legislature party wants the implementation of the Assam Accord in totality. We don’t want citizenship for anyone who entered Assam after March 25, 1971, whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian or from any other religion,” said senior Congressman and leader of Opposition in Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia.
While both Assam Accord and NRC kept March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to foreigners, Shah in his address on Monday had stated that CAB would have December 31, 2014, as the deadline.
The Assam unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has indicated that enactment of CAB would pave the way for the entry of Hindus from Bangladesh, who had been left out of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam released in August.
Of the 33 million people who applied to be included in the list, which identifies Indians residing in Assam, 1.9 million have been excluded. Although specific data on the exclusions is not yet available, the BJP feels many of those left out could be Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh.
Ahead of the release of the final NRC, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who heads the BJP-led coalition in Assam, had indicated that the Government might adopt legislative means to correct “anomalies” of NRC.
Shah’s comments came after Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and his counterparts from Nagaland and Mizoram, Neiphiu Rio and Zoramthanga, voiced concerns about CAB at the NEDA meet.
“There is fear over CAB as well whether people from Bangladesh will keep coming to our region forever. Will there be an end to it or a time limit will be there ? People of North East would want to know the Centre’s view on it,” Sangma said.
While Rio said CAB could alter the demography of the region, Zoramthanga wanted the North East to be kept out of the purview of the legislation while adding that parties in the region which supported the legislation are on the “verge of suicide”. Hindustan Times