Protests broke out in parts of Assam on Saturday against the Citizenship Bill, PTI reported. The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years, even if they do not possess the necessary documents.
The development follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declaration in Silchar on Friday that his administration was working to ensure the law gets passed in Parliament. He claimed the legislation is meant to safeguard “all who had been victims of Partition”.
Meanwhile, a citizens’ group urged editors of all newspapers in Assam to keep their editorial columns blank and electronic media to black upper or lower ticker on January 7 in solidarity with the protest against the draft law, NorthEast News reported. “The Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre has already decided to pass the Bill at any cost,” said the convener of the forum Harekrishna Deka. “The Bill is nothing but execution of the Hindutva agenda of the saffron party.”
Around 70 organisations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, staged protests in Guwahati on Saturday. Protestors also burnt Modi in effigy in Lower Assam and Dibrugarh.
The protestors in Guwahati attempted to march towards the Asom Gana Parishad headquarters to demand that it break ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Police personnel, however, prevented them from completing their march, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi said.
“We cannot tolerate a leader coming from Delhi and threatening our very existence while the chief minister and other BJP leaders applaud him,” Gogoi said.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Saturday urged for calm. “I am the chief minister of Assam and I have been entrusted with the duty of protecting the interest of the people of both Brahmaputra and Barak Valley,” Sonowal said. “People should not doubt the government’s intention.” He assured the people that he would protect the state.
On Thursday, the Asom Gana Parishad had reiterated that it would break away from the alliance if the Bill is tabled in Lok Sabha.
The existing law states that “citizenship of India by naturalisation can be acquired by a foreigner (not illegal migrant) who is ordinarily resident in India for twelve years”.