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Bengali Hindu refugees in Assam’s Barak Valley hope for CAB’s passage in RS

Kabindra Purkayastha, former MP and Union Minister and BJP’s senior most leader in Barak Valley said people of the valley are very happy that the Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Unlike Bengali majority Barak Valley, the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has sparked off mass protests in the Assamese-speaking Brahmaputra Valley in Assam.(PTI)
Published on Dec 11, 2019 12:16 AM IST
Hindustan Times, Guwahati | BySadiq Naqvi

In Amraghat village of Cachar District in Bengali speaking Barak Valley of Assam, the family of Ajit Das believes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will end their woes. Das, a declared foreigner has served three months in detention and is currently out on bail.

Das’ family claim they came to Cachar from the then East Pakistan in 1956 to escape religious persecution. They were issued refugee documents which have not been accepted by the authorities. Their hopes now rest on the passage of the CAB in Rajya Sabha.

“The newspaper report said once the Bill is passed, there will be no cases against Bengali Hindus,” said Sumanta Das, his brother-in-law who has been helping Ajit Das fight the legal battle with his case now pending in the Gauhati High Court.

As opposed to the majority Assamese speaking Brahmaputra Valley, where the people are angry against the passage of the CAB in the Lok Sabha, in Barak Valley, especially in Silchar the Bill has evoked mixed reactions.


“People of Barak Valley are very happy. It was our commitment and we have fulfilled it. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister thought it is an opportune time to pass it in Parliament and we are confident that it will sail through in Rajya Sabha too,” said Kabindra Purkayastha, former MP and Union Minister and BJP’s senior most leader in the region.

“Now religious minorities especially Bengali Hindu refugees in the region will get citizenship. We have always wanted not even one should suffer,” said Purkayastha.

There are varied estimates of the undocumented Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh who could benefit from the amendment in Assam.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal addressing a meet of the party’s mandal and zila presidents on Monday said “according to the data which we have, it won’t be more than 5 lakhs, it will be less than 5 lakhs.”

The BJP has been trying to assuage the concerns of the Assamese speakers by dishing out numbers even while NRC district wise figure has not been made public. The less than 5 lakh figure is said to include those who have not made it to the National Register of Citizens which was published on August 31.

The maximum, around 1.3 lakh of the people eligible for citizenship once the amendment becomes a law are said to be residing in three districts of Barak Valley.

“There are cases that many genuine Indian citizens also don’t have documents and are out of NRC beside the immigrants who have come after March 24, 1971, the citizenship cutoff date in Assam. The CAB will help both category of people getting protection,” said Santanu Naik, a lawyer who is the advisor to the North East Linguistic and Ethnic Coordination Committee (NELECC) in Silchar.

Sadhan Purkayastha, the secretary general of the Citizens Rights Preservation Committee, however, said granting citizenship is easier said than done and the process will end up becoming another NRC like mess for the applicants.

“The CAB will not serve the purpose of the partition victims. To get citizenship the government has inserted some conditions. People will not be able to fulfill those conditions and get citizenship. It will be kept hanging. CAB has been passed for political interest,” Purkayastha said.

“Like NRC people will have to appear before an officer. They will have to show this paper, that paper,” he said.

Purkayastha also claimed BJP’s CAB pitch pitting immigrants from Hindus and five other communities as refugees and Muslims as infiltrators have created a sharp divide in the Barak Valley where Hindus constitute majority of the immigrants.

“BJP has created hatred and division by targeting a particular community. The minority community in Barak have gone against CAB because of BJP’s stand. They were in favour of citizenship to partition victims earlier,” said Purkayastha.

“This CAB has been brought by the BJP to create a communal divide. Their statements are also communal in nature. We are opposing the bill. India’s Constitution doesn’t allow any law on basis of religion,” said Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuiya, former MLA and General Secretary of Nadwatut Tamir, North East India.

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