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Govt Set to Push for Passage of Citizenship Bill in Winter Session of Parliament, Protests Break out in Assam

Protests against the Bill erupted across Assam on Friday with a youth organisation staging demonstrations, while the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and an influential civic body asserting the legislation will not be accepted by people of the state at any cost.

PTI

Updated:November 15, 2019, 8:18 PM IST
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Govt Set to Push for Passage of Citizenship Bill in Winter Session of Parliament, Protests Break out in Assam
Activists of Assam Jatiyabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJCP) take part in a protest rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, in Guwahati, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Image: PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The Modi government is set to push for the passage of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, a key BJP plank which is aimed at granting nationality to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries, in Parliament's Winter Session starting from Monday. The government has listed the bill in its items of business for the session, official sources said.

Protests against the Bill erupted across Assam on Friday with a youth organisation staging demonstrations, while the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and an influential civic body asserting the legislation will not be accepted by people of the state at any cost.

The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the bill in its previous tenure as well but could not push it through due to vehement protests by opposition parties, which criticised the bill as discriminatory on religious grounds. The bill had lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.

The legislation seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan if they have fled their respective country due to religious persecution.

There has been opposition to the bill in Assam and other Northeastern states. Student organisations, political parties and socio-cultural bodies have been protesting on the grounds that it seeks to grant nationality to non-Muslims, mostly Hindus, who have come into India up to December 31, 2014, thereby increasing the deadline from 1971 as per the Assam Accord.

The BJP and its Hindutva affiliates have insisted that minorities, of whom Hindus are in overwhelming numbers, from these countries should be granted Indian citizenship. The session is scheduled to be held between November 18 to December 13.

On the eve of upcoming session, members and supporters of Asom Jatiyabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) that was in the forefront of the protest against CAB early this year took out rallies and held massive sit-in demonstrations.

The AJYCP agitators raised slogans against the BJP-led central and Assam governments for allegedly adopting an "anti-Assam policy to settle illegal hindu migrants in the state by amending the Citizenship Act".

Holding banners and placards against the bill, one of the demonstrators asserted, "the people of Assam cannot accept cab as it will make the indigenous people and their language extinct with the settlement of people from other countries here".

RTI activist Akhil Gogoi,leader of the social organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Parishad (KMSS) that was part of the anti-cab movement earlier expressed the concern that the population of Assam would increase as 1.9 crore Bangladeshis would come to the state after the legislation came into force.

Asserting that Assam and Tripura would be the worst affected, Gogoi while talking to the media Friday urged all the political parties and non-governmental organisations to stand unitedly against the bill and create public awareness to oppose the government's move to implement the cab.

Dr Samujjal Bhattacharyya, Chief Advisor of the influential All Assam Students Union that had led the anti-cab protests early this year said, "We will not tolerate the bill at any cost and continue to protest against it. We will not accept the divisive policies of the government in the name of religion".

"We can not let BJP do whatever they want just because they have the numbers in Parliament. With the Act, the definition of immigrants will get changed directly affecting the demography of Assam and the North east region", the AASU averred speaking to reporters Friday.

Urging Meghalaya and Mizoram Chief Ministers to oppose the bill, Bhattachayya accused Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal of "not having the courage to speak in front of his national leaders

by standing with the people of the state".

Opposition Congress leader Debabrata Saikia also while talking to the media said people must oppose cab as it was against the Assam Accord of 1985 for ensuring constitutional protection of the indigenous people.

Finance Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a meeting said cab would be introduced within the first two days of the upcoming winter session of Parliament and it will not impact the interests of indigenous people.

On being informed about Friday's statewide stir against the bill, Sarma said protests are part of democracy and people have the right to do so.

In September this year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had stated at a NEDA (North East Democratic Alliance) meeting in Guwahati that the existing different laws of all states of the region will remain untouched even with the introduction of the cab with the cut-off date of December 31, 2014.

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