August 14, 2018

Assam Congress divided, seeks referendum over bill

14 May 2018, 04:49 | Edward Lowe

Pro-talks Ulfa leader Anup Chetia joins a protest in Shillong

Pro-talks Ulfa leader Anup Chetia joins a protest in Shillong

On Monday, hundreds protested in Guwahati, with placards reading "Assamese nation will never accept the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill".

Guwahati, May 13 Opposition leader in the Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia today urged Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to advise the governor and the speaker to summon a special session of the House following protests in the state against the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

"It's enough. We the people of the Northeast have suffered a lot in the hand of the central government".

The Bill once passed would render the Assam Accord as well as National Register of Citizens (NRC) toothless, he said.

The 16-member JPC was formed in August 2016 under the headship of BJP MP Satyapal Singh to hear views of various stakeholders after severe opposition in Assam following the tabling of the Bill in Lok Sabha in July 2016.

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"The government is doing everything to take the people of the state into confidence", Assam industry minister Chandra Mohan Patwary said with reference to the bill, which proposes that illegal migrants of certain minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan can become eligible for Indian citizenship. They said there can not be any change to the cut-off date - March 25, 1971 - and those who came later have to be deported, a demand that has kept the pot simmering for close to three decades now.

"The whole Bengali community continues to be looked upon as suspected illegal immigrants", said Himadri Roy, president of Sara Assam Bengali Aiyko Manch.

Mr Sonowal said there are allegations against him that he was not allowing the parliamentary committee to visit Assam.

"We want a correct NRC, which is being updated under the directives of the Supreme Court, to protect the identity of the Assamese people", he said.

"When Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 was imposed on Assam, did the then Congress government take the views of the people of Assam?"

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The North East Students Organisation (NESO), in a petition to the committee, said the people of the region should be provided with "constitutional safeguards".

The opposers of the Bill are apprehensive that the granting of Indian citizenship to the Hindus of Bangladesh to live in Assam would negatively impact the demographic pattern of the state and make the indigenous people minorities in their own state, besides threatening Assamese language and culture.

Asked if the Assam cabinet would reject the Bill as the Meghalaya government had done, the minister said, "We are not in a position to do so as the process of NRC was on".

Without taking names, he pilloried some intellectuals with Left lineage saying those who had been critical of the anti-foreigners' agitation of early 1980s are now leading the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

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