Guwahati: The Centre is set to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in the winter session of Parliament even as people in Assam and the Northeast continue to oppose it. Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday indicated that the contentious legislation, which has already been passed in the Lok Sabha, will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha by December 10.
“The Bill would be tabled in Parliament by December 10. We are hopeful that it will be passed,” said Sarma in New Delhi.
“Before the Bill is passed, Assam and the indigenous people of the state will be given a constitutional safeguard,” he said, emphasising that the Centre will implement every recommendation made by a high-level committee on Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord, “without changing a comma or a full stop”.
Sarma, also the convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), reiterated that the special provisions in the Bill will not override the existing provisions in State Acts - indicating that areas under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime and those under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution would not come under the ambit of the Bill.
Sarma also outlined the procedural rules under the Bill.
“After the implementation of Citizenship Bill, the applicants (non-Muslim minorities of neighbouring countries) will have to apply for citizenship within a year of its implementation. A self-submission is desired from the applicant stating that he/she suffered religious persecution at a particular location of the neighbouring country, and this will be later verified by the Indian embassy in Dhaka,” he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday met political leaders and members of civil society organisations of Assam to discuss the Bill. A day earlier, Shah held a discussion with the stakeholders and political parties of Tripura and Mizoram. In a final push, Shah is also scheduled to hold talks with the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) on December 3.
“We are satisfied with the clarifications made by the Union Home Minister on the Bill. We feel the people of the Northeast have nothing to be worried about,” said Rajya Sabha member from Assam Biswajit Daimary after a discussion with Shah.
Several organisations in Assam who were present at the meeting with Shah, however, believe the tweaked version of the Bill will spell disaster for the state. The Asam Sahitya Sabha, the All Bodo Students’ Union(ABSU) and the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) were among the ethnic organisations that attended the crucial discussion.
“We have strongly opposed the Bill, and clearly stated we will not accept a Bill that violates the Assam Accord,” said AAMSU advisor Azizur Rahman.
“I would rather choose to die than accept the Citizenship Bill — it will be more dangerous for Assam if some states of the Northeast, which are protected by ILP and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, are kept outside the purview of the Bill,” said RTI activist Akhil Gogoi, who also leads the peasants’ body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samitee (KMSS).
“Quoting Amit Shah, Daimary said Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will be implemented prior to the Citizenship Bill’s passage. However, under this clause, there are no political and economic safeguards for Assam. Assam will not be safe even if Clause 6 is implemented without the implementation of Clause 5, which says the immigrants, who came after March 24, 1971, are not detected and deported,” Gogoi added.
Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) also said the party will continue to oppose the Bill that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to “persecuted” non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who migrated to India till December 31, 2014.
“We oppose the Citizenship Bill as it is based on religion. We ask the Union Home Minister as to how the government will know if people were religiously persecuted. What machine does it have to detect persecution? Who will give the data on the number of people who came to Assam before December 31, 2014?” he asked.
The party said the Bill, if passed, would render the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) meaningless. “If the Bill is passed, it will violate Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution,” the AIUDF added.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in Guwahati said that his party would oppose the Bill as well as the nationwide NRC.