Assam up in arms against Citizenship Amendment Bill
The bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there. It proposes to make people from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi faiths who entered India till December 31, 2014, eligible for citizenship.Updated: Dec 09, 2019 05:50 IST
Protests over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which is expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday, have intensified in Assam, prompting chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to call for peace.
The bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there. It proposes to make people from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi faiths who entered India till December 31, 2014, eligible for citizenship.
On Monday afternoon, the government will introduce the bill to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act, and later in the day, it will be taken up for discussion and passage, according to the Lok Sabha’s list of business for Monday. Students’ organisations, civil society groups and opposition parties in Assam have been protesting against the legislation, saying it would lead to an influx of religious minorities from Bangladesh and hurt the interests of indigenous communities.
A large section opposing the bill also says it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.
The influential North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), which comprises student bodies from seven states in the region, has called an 11-hour bandh beginning 5am on December 10.
In Assam, sit-ins, rallies and marches have been held over the past week, and ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led ruling coalition, which includes the Asom Gana Parishad, have been shown black flags.
The All Assam Students Union (AASU), the state’s biggest student body, has also announced a series of protests opposing the legislation. “Assam is not the dustbin for illegal immigrants. The BJP at the Centre is bent on bringing the legislation based on its numbers in Parliament. We will not accept it,” AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya said.
The Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the two main opposition parties in the state, too, have been staging protests, saying it is against provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985.
On Sunday, chief minister Sonowal urged protesters to focus on development instead. He said his government will not do anything that hurts the interest of Assam and its people. “I appeal to all protesters to give up their agitation as no development can take place through protests. We should focus on peace and create a proper work culture in the state,” he said while laying the foundation stone of a flyover.
Security has been stepped up across the state ahead of the tabling of the bill in Parliament. Police has urged people not to spread hate messages and fake news related to the legislation.
“Some mischievous elements are attempting to spread hate and fake news regarding the proposed CAB. We request all stakeholders not to believe in the disinformation being spread by such elements,” the Assam Police tweeted.
In Tripura, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), an ally of the ruling BJP in the state which held a demonstrations in Delhi on December 2 to protest against the bill, has called for a 12-hour shutdown on December 9. In Agartala, IPFT leaders announced a dawn-to-dusk shutdown in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas on Monday to protest against the CAB and to highlight other demands, including a separate state for the tribals.