GUWAHATI: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 would not overlap local laws and the tribal identity in some states of the Northeast which enjoy special provisions under Article 371 of the Constitution.
“(Meghalaya Chief Minister) Conrad Sangma has expressed his concerns over Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. There are worries over it in some other states (of the Northeast) as well. Let me assert that Article 371 will not be hurt by the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” Shah said in his speech at a meeting of non-Congress conglomerate of political parties North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) here.
The chief ministers of all eight states of the Northeast and leaders of various regional political parties attended the meeting.
“Article 371 is the right of the Northeast. Nobody can take it away. Your laws, tribal identity and culture will remain protected when we bring the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” Shah said.
He said after the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published in Assam, the states in the region expressed varied concerns. While Assam was worried over the exclusion of genuine Indians from the list, its neighbours were worried over possible exodus of the immigrants to their areas.
“Let me assure both sides that no infiltrator can stay in India. Not just Assam, we want to rid the entire country of the infiltrators. We will seriously think over this by taking all states into confidence,” the Home Minister said.
He said the refugees, who entered the country till December 31, 2014, would be in the scheme of things when the Centre passes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Earlier in the day, Sangma said the Centre should take the states of the Northeast into confidence when it decides on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
“Several states are apprehensive of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. We fear if the over 19 lakh people excluded from the NRC will migrate to the other states including my state. Our worries are more as we are on the border (with Assam),” Sangma said.
Mizoram CM, Zoramthanga, and his Nagaland counterpart, Neiphiu Rio, also expressed similar concerns. Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh enjoy special provisions under Article 371. Meghalaya falls under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has been already passed in the Lok Sabha. Through its passage in Parliament, the Centre wants to protect the non-Muslim immigrants who migrated to India in the face of religious persecution.