Silchar: Despite widespread protests in Assam and concerns voiced by BJP's own ally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the government will move ahead with the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and hopes to get it passed in the Parliament soon.
“The Citizenship Bill is an atonement of the wrong that was done during India’s partition. I hope this bill is passed soon in parliament. India will safeguard all who had been victims of partition,” the Prime Minister said as he addressed a poll rally in Assam’s Silchar, kicking off the campaign for the 2019 general elections.
“Citizenship bill not for anyone's benefit, but a penance against injustice done in past. It is linked with emotions and to peoples' lives,” he added.
The legislation seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 with the aim to grant citizenship to minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians — after six years of residence in India, instead of 12, even if they do not possess proper documents.
This means that the cut-off date for Assam, which was March 25, 1971 (following the historic Assam Accord), would be December 31, 2014, in case the Bill is passed by Parliament.
If there are people in the world who believe in Ma Bharati and they were persecuted from other countries, will Ma Bharati not give shelter to them?" asked Modi at the public rally at Ramnagar here. "If the Indian origin people were ousted from other countries, where will they go?" he asked.
The Amendment Bill has whipped up massive protests in Brahmaputra Valley of Assam by indigenous people’s groups but has been hailed by Hindu Bengalis, the dominant group in Barak Valley, where the PM was making his speech.
Around 70 organisations in Assam have threatened to move the Supreme Court against the Bill as they fear it would pave the way for entry of 1.9 crore Bangladeshis into the state and change the demography of the region. Opposition parties have also said that citizenship should not be decided on the basis of religion.
The Citizenship Bill is part of the BJP’s ideological push and it has gained prominence in the last few months following the NRC exercise in Assam. The BJP, led by its president Amit Shah, has repeatedly vowed to throw out all infiltrators and at the same time talked about letting in Hindu refugees from Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries.
The BJP’s relationship with ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is linked to the Bill as the latter has threatened to break its alliance with the saffron party if it goes ahead with the legislation.
Modi also spoke about his government's decision to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord "hanging" for 35 years. "Now the road is clear to safeguard social, cultural and linguistic identity of Assam.
The Prime Minister also assured the people of Assam that no genuine citizen will be left out of the NRC process.
"I am aware of the problems and difficulties faced by many during the NRC (National Register of Citizens) process but I assure you that no injustice will be done to any genuine Indian citizens," he said.
Recalling his inauguration of the country's longest rail-cum-road bridge at Bogibeel in upper Assam on December 25, Modi said, "I am fortunate to be with the people of Assam for the second time in 10 days. The Barak and Brahmaputra valleys are a source of inspiration not only for the state but also for the country", Modi said.
The PM arrived at Silchar in Cachar district from imphal as a part of his first phase of poll campaign, wherein he is scheduled to address rallies in 20 states in 100 days before the model code of conduct comes into force.
The BJP and its allies is setting the target to win 21 out of the 25 parliamentary seats in eight states in the region and in Assam the party hopes to win at least 11 of the
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP had made massive in roads in Assam winning seven of its 14 parliamentary seats and in the 2016 assembly polls the party emerged as the single largest party with 61 seats while its alliance partners AGP and BPF had won 14 and 12 seats respectively.