Guwahati: Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday challenged the Sarbananda Sonowal government in Assam to identify at least 100 people in the state who had suffered 'religious persecution' in neighbouring countries. Gogoi’s challenge comes two days after Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced Centre’s decision to reintroduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the next parliament session in November.
“I challenge them to identify 100 persecuted people living in Assam. There is not a single one I found in 15 years of my tenure as chief minister. In fact, since 1986, I can confirm there’s none. Even former Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta can confirm this for the duration of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)government in Assam. After the partition, all refugees who sought shelter in Assam were given Refugee Certificates, colonies were made for them in every district, and they were provided with land. Where do they see refugees now?” said Gogoi, adding that the current government is “inviting” more refugees in the state by planning to revive the Citizenship Bill.
“We don’t have land, jobs for our own people – the tribals and those from the minority community living in Lower Assam get displaced in floods every year – these communities will suffer most with the government opening doors to refugees from neighbouring countries through Citizenship Bill,” said the former chief minister.
Tarun Gogoi also took a swipe at Sarma and his recent announcement of the Bharatiya Janata Party “rejecting” the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was released on August 31, 2019. More than 19 lakh people have been excluded from the final NRC.
“Who is he to reject the NRC? With your plan to reintroduce Citizenship Bill, you are now rejecting the NRC. If you were committed to bring about the Bill, you should have rejected the updating exercise long back. Why waste so much of money and manpower on it? The Congress wants a corrected NRC.”
Sarma, who is also the Convener of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), on Tuesday said that with the enactment of Citizenship Bill, “most of the problems will be over” for those left out of the final NRC who are now refusing to approach the Foreigner’s Tribunal to prove their citizenship. Various ethnic communities in Assam have taken to the streets in protest against their exclusion.
“If there is a law, we have to honour it. If Citizenship (Amendment) Bill comes, most of the problems will be over. Protests and counter protests are part of a democtratic set up,” said Sarma, adding that the government is having consultations with stakeholders at various levels, and that it has to be completed before the Bill could be reintroduced in the next parliament session.
Earlier, at the fourth NEDA conclave in Guwahati, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while addressing the fears of the regional BJP allies, said that the proposed Citizenship Bill would not affect the special provisions for Northeastern states under Article 371, and would not be in conflict with the existing Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in certain states or the existing state laws that safeguard the cultural, linguistic and other rights of the northeastern people.