Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal told a group of members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing that “no one has data” about how many people would benefit from the Citizenship Amendment Act in the state, The Telegraph reported on Friday.
“To tell you the truth, no one has the data [about the beneficiaries],” Sonowal said at a “youth parliament” organised by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in Guwahati on Thursday,
At the meeting, participants asked BJP leaders about the different figures quoted by senior leaders when asked how many would benefit. A participant asked state BJP President Ranjeet Kumar Dass why he and Sonowal had said that the number of refugees who would benefit from the law was “negligible” while state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma put the number between 3.5 lakh and five lakh. Sarma had reportedly told the state Assembly that he would quit politics if more than five lakh people apply for citizenship under the law.
“He [Sonowal] never said negligible or a few people would apply,” Dass replied. “As far as I know, Sarma also never said that three to five lakh people would come. He said there was a scope for three to five lakh people to apply. I say till the 42 lakh members of the BJP in Assam identify themselves as Assamese or Indians, no foreigner will be able to come to Assam.”
Dass accused those opposing the new citizenship law of spreading misinformation that Sonowal and Sarma had said new people would come to the state because of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Last week, a media report said Uttar Pradesh had become the first state to start the process of implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Adityanath government had identified 32,000 beneficiaries in 21 districts, it added.
The citizenship law, approved by Parliament on December 11 and notified by the government on January 10, expedites the citizenship process for refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.
The government’s critics fear that the amended law along with the National Register of Citizens will be misused to target Muslims since the Citizenship Act now has religion as a criterion. The citizens’ register is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants.