Bonnya Barua, daughter of the United Liberation Front of Asom leader Anup Chetia, spoke against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, at the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Barua said the bill, if passed, would reduce the indigenous communities of Assam to minority groups. She spoke on behalf of the Indigenous Forum of Assam, a platform of around 30 organisations representing the state’s indigenous communities. Barua is a member of the forum while her father is its convenor.
“Our organisation is of the opinion that the government of India has failed to uphold its duty to safeguard the rights of the people of Assam,” Barua said. “Its latest decision to pass the bill is likely to make the Assamese community a minority.”
The Assamese people were forced to “assimilate with illegal immigrants” when India was formed and “the said bill will force them to assimilate with more”, she claimed. “Forcefully imposing illegal immigrants on racially discriminated and exploited indigenous communities goes against the principles of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action,” The Durban Declaration proposes measures to combat racism, xenophobia and intolerance.
Barua said the Indian government’s actions indicate it is not bothered about the commitments reaffirmed in the declaration. “India still has an opportunity to correct this injustice and expediting the process of National Register of Citizens will be the first major step towards it,” she added.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill aims to make crucial changes to the Citizenship Act of 1955. If passed, it would make undocumented immigrants – Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis – from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh eligible for citizenship. It would also ease the terms for naturalisation of individuals from these groups. Several groups in Assam have objected to the proposed amendments.