The All Assam Students Union (AASU), the largest student body in the state, is planning a mass movement to oppose the Centre’s proposal to grant citizenship to minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
“A foreigner is a foreigner and the people of Assam have never thought about dividing foreigners on the basis of religion,” AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya said on Saturday after a public meeting which agreed another mass agitation was needed.
The students’ body threatened to launch a mass movement on the lines of the Assam agitation (1979-1985) to stop entry of foreigners, which led to signing of Assam Accord and setting 1971 as the cut off year to accept Bangladeshi refugees.
In BJP-ruled Assam, there is speculation that if the government’s proposal goes through there would be influx of a large number of Hindus from Bangladesh to the state.
“If the Bill is adopted and implemented, indigenous people in Assam will become a minority in their own state,” Bhattacharyya warned
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, introduced in the Lok Sabha in July, proposes to bring changes to the Citizenship Act, 1955, to provide citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The bill is being examined by a joint parliamentary panel and suggestions are being sought from organizations and parties.
The Bill has also been criticised by the Opposition, which has accused the government of granting citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries on ‘religious lines’ and wooing the majority Hindu community.
In Assam, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is currently being updated to weed out illegal migrants who came to Assam post the 1971 war when Bangladesh was liberated from Pakistan. The cut-off date for the NRC is midnight of March 24, 1971, and all those who migrated to Assam from Bangladesh before this period would get Indian citizenship as per the Assam Accord signed in 1985.