GUWAHATI: As the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being updated in Assam, there is rising suspicion among Assamese organisations that the Centre is making an attempt to grant citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants.
They have made it clear that would oppose any such move tooth and nail.
Some recent developments have lent credence to such suspicion. These include the assertions by two BJP leaders—sitting MP Ram Prasad Sarmah and former MP Kabindra Purkayastha—and a visit to Delhi by 15-member state BJP delegation, led by party’s Assam unit chief Ranjit Das, visit to Delhi to impress upon the Centre to implement the design.
“The government is planning to grant citizenship to 10 lakh Hindu Bangladeshis.Ten lakh Hindu immigrants will not affect Assam’s 3.12 crore population,” Sarmah said. In 2015, the Narendra Modi government had issued a notification seeking to revise the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1955, to ensure citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Subsequently, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was introduced by the Centre in the Lok Sabha in July 2016. Purkayastha insisted that the Centre bring in an ordinance promulgating the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. “We want the Centre to implement the notification issued to grant protection to the immigrants in Assam. It is being executed in Punjab, Karnataka and West Bengal. So, why not in Assam?” he said.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which spearheaded a bloody anti-foreigners’ agitation in early 1980s that ended after the signing of the Assam Accord with the then Rajiv Gandhi government, is outraged. “The Assam Accord says the immigrants, irrespective of faith, who came to the state before March 24, 1971, will stay. But those who came beyond that date will be detected and deported,” AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya says. “Assam is not a dumping ground for immigrants,” he asserted.
Former CM Tarun Gogoi says the Bill violates the Assam Accord. State Congress chief Ripun Bora says the party will oppose citizenship based on religion.
A section of Assamese intellectuals are also miffed and have appealed to people to raise their voice in protest. “There has been a heated discussion in the local press and social media on the crisis facing native people. At this very moment, the Centre is intent on introducing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” a statement issued by 12 intellectuals said.