‘Citizenship Bill won’t affect region’s special provisions’, Amit Shah assures Northeast
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill had lapsed in February after the government did not table it in the Rajya Sabha.Updated: Sep 09, 2019 18:58 IST
Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday assured Northeastern states that the enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, (CAB), will not affect existing special provisions for them.
Shah’s assurance came while addressing the 4th conclave of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the BJP-led political alliance of anti-Congress parties of the region, after Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma voiced concern on the proposed legislation.
“It is good Sangmaji publicly voiced the worries of states of the region in relation to CAB. There is worry about what will happen to Article 371 and provisions like inner line permit once CAB is enacted,” he said.
“I want to clarify there’s no plan to tamper with Article 371. Even if CAB is enacted, it won’t affect provisions of Article 371, the Centre would take care of it. Nothing would also happen to the existing laws protecting your customary laws and culture,” Shah added.
The Union home minister stressed that the CAB, which the Centre is planning to enact, already has set a cut-off date of December 31, 2014 for those from neighbouring countries who will benefit from it.
“There is a fear over CAB as well on whether people from Bangladesh will keep coming to our region forever. Will there be an end to it or a time limit will be there? People of Northeast would want to know the Centre’s view on it,” Meghalaya CM Sangma said earlier at the conclave.
“Will the CAB bypass state governments? There is a fear on it. We enjoy provisions of Sixth Schedule. We need to take the state governments, different organizations and communities into confidence (before bringing the legislation). I am sure you will address these issues,” he added.
The CAB proposes to provide citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The legislation, which was passed in Lok Sabha in January this year, lapsed in February because the government did not table it in the Rajya Sabha after it failed to muster the numbers. The Bill had been a contentious one and had triggered protests in Assam and other Northeastern states.
Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio and Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga also expressed their concerns about the CAB. While Rio said it could alter demography of the region, Zoramthanga wanted the Northeast to be kept out of purview of the legislation.
In his address Sangma also expressed worry whether those excluded by the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam, released last month, would try and take shelter in other states of the region.
“Over 19 lakh people were excluded in final NRC of Assam. There is a fear in my state that some of those excluded might enter my state, as Meghalaya shares a border with Assam,” he said.
In response, Shah reiterated that no such thing will happen.
“All states of the region and especially Assam have expressed concern about NRC. While in Assam, there is a feeling that many genuine Indians have got excluded, smaller states of the region are worried that those left out might come to their states,” said Shah.
“I want to assure all that no single infiltrator would remain in Assam or will enter other states. Our intention is not to rid only Assam of infiltrators, but to free the entire country from them. There is a plan for it and to implement it we will take all states into confidence,” he added.
The home minister thanked people of the region for their support to NEDA constituents and informed that at present 19 of the 25 Lok Sabha MPs, 6 of the 14 Rajya Sabha MPs and 329 of the total 498 MLAs from the region belonged to parties that are part of the political alliance.
Shah told NEDA constituents that the Centre would bring stringent legislation to curb drug, arms and human trafficking from across the border and urged states of the region to work together to boost tourism, improve flood management and increase hydro power generation.
“We have achieved our political objective 100%. But we need to do something for people for the region. We should use the NEDA alliance in a positive manner and solve our internal border issues,” said NEDA convener and senior Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
The 4th NEDA conclave was attended by chief ministers of all Northeastern states, chiefs of parties associated with NEDA and MPs and MLAs from the region.