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Wait till NRC update is over, Assam CM appeals to people as state erupts over Citizenship Bill

Assam is witnessing large-scale demonstrations against the Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to minorities from neighbouring countries, over fears of an influx of Hindu Bangladeshis.

india Updated: May 24, 2018 23:19 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Citizenship Bill,NRC,Hindu Bangladeshis
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal addresses a press conference on the occasion of completion of two years of the state government, at Administrative Staff College, Khanapara in Guwahati on May 24.(HT Photo)

Faced with widespread protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday appealed to the people to be patient until work on updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was complete.

Assam is witnessing large-scale demonstrations against the Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to minorities from neighbouring countries, over fears of an influx of Hindu Bangladeshis.

Nearly 50,000 government staff are engaged in updating the NRC, which was first prepared in 1951, in a bid to weed out illegal immigrants who entered the state after March 24, 1971—the day the Bangladesh War started.

“We are waiting till June 30 for the NRC process to be over. The state government’s view on the issue will be known once the process is over. I can assure that we won’t take any decision which will go against the interest of the people of Assam,” Sonowal said.

His government has been facing flak for its silence when neighbouring Meghalaya, where the BJP is part of the government, came out clearly against the Bill.

The BJP had come to power in 2016 with the promise of protecting the “jaati, maati and bheti” (identity, land and homes).

Illegal immigration is a sensitive issue in Assam, where a mass agitation between 1979 and 1985 against foreigners had claimed over 800 lives. “We are preparing to launch another agitation against since it is a question of our identity,” Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU), which led the 1979-1985 agitation, said.

Sonowal is facing threat of pullout from coalition partner Asom Gana Parishad. “Our stand is very clear. If the Bill is passed, we won’t stay in government,” AGP president Atul Bora said.

First Published: May 24, 2018 23:19 IST