As the Narendra Modi-led government is set to push the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill during the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament, beginning on November 18, protests broke out across Assam on Friday against the legislation, PTI reported. The government has listed the Bill in its items of business for the session.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend a 1955 law to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years. It had been passed by the previous Lok Sabha but was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha. The bill lapsed after the term of the Lok Sabha ended in May but was not introduced in the Budget Session in July.
Opposition parties have criticised the Bill as discriminatory on religious grounds as it deliberately omits Muslims.
The All Assam Students’ Union asserted that the legislation will not be accepted by people of the state at any cost. Members and supporters of Asom Jatiyabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad took out rallies and held sit-in demonstrations against the re-introduction of the Bill. They accused the Bharatiya Janata Party and the state government of adopting an “anti-Assam policy to settle illegal Hindu migrants in the state by amending the Citizenship Act”.
Right to Information Act activist Akhil Gogoi said the protests were part of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Bill movement. He said the population of Assam would increase as 1.9 crore Bangladeshis would come to the state after the legislation came into force. Gogoi, who is also the leader of the social organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Parishad, urged all the political parties and non-governmental organisations to stand unitedly against the Bill.
Samujjal Bhattacharyya, chief advisor of the All Assam Students Union, 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”. He accused Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal of “not having the courage to speak in front of his national leaders”.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Assam politician who is considered the BJP’s point-man for the North East, said the Bill would be introduced within the first two days of the winter session and it will not impact the interests of indigenous people.
In the list of the business, the Bill is defined as: “To amend the definition of illegal migrant, reduction in the number of years of residency period to obtain Indian Citizenship through naturalization and to empower Central Govt to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizen of India card in case of any violations”.
The Bill’s introduction assumes significance as Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said that the National Register of Citizens exercise will be conducted across the country to weed out illegal citizens but only after the Citizenship Amendment Bill is passed.
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