GUWAHATI: Defending its decision to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from three countries, the BJP on Saturday pilloried two-time former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta when he, as the leader of All Assam Students’ Union, signed the Assam Accord with the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985, accepting the illegal immigrants who entered the state till March 24, 1971, as Indians.
“1951 was the base year to determine illegal immigrants. Then the Assam Accord was signed in 1985. It said the immigrants who came after March 24, 1971 will be deported. They accepted the immigrants, who came between 1951 and 1971, as Indians. So, wasn’t that a betrayal? The betrayers are now branding us as betrayers. Mr Mahanta, you will lose in your Barhampur seat in the next elections,” Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said at a party rally in Guwahati.
Mahanta is a strong critic of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) which will grant citizenship to “persecuted” immigrants belonging to six non-Muslim communities who migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014.
The BJP is facing widespread protests in Assam on the issue of the CAA as it has extended the base year from March 24, 1971 to December 31, 2014. The protesters said it violated the Assam Accord.
Sarma said there was no hue and cry when the Citizenship Act was amended twice in 1987 and 1992 to grant citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.
“Samujjal (chief advisor to AASU Samujjal Bhattacharya) said the Assam Accord was the best agreement then. In 1987, the Rajiv Gandhi government and the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta government amended the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship to the children of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. The Act was amended again in 1992 and it said the children of the immigrants will not be viewed as Indians but those, who would be born thereafter, will be considered as Indians. So, the Citizenship Act was amended twice but there were never any protests. Nobody had raised any question,” Sarma said.
He said it was the Atal Behari Vajpayee government that had taken a decision that the children of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants could never be Indians.
“When we talk about the Hindus, some people get itchy. The Congress has nothing against the CAA. They want the Muslims to be included. In the Parliament, they had said they were opposed to it as the Muslims were not considered,” Sarma said.