It's Barak Valley versus Brahmaputra Valley over citizenship amendment bill

Students protest in front of Cotton University in Guwahati on Thursday

A team of NESO which included the AMSU team held a meeting with the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 at Shillong recently.

The Bill, which was tabled in the Lok Sabha in July 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by enabling illegal immigrants of six minority communities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to apply for Indian citizenship.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said he had no reason to continue on his post if he could not protect the interest of the people of the state. "If the Bill is passed, an additional 1.70 crore Hindus living in Bangladesh (according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2015) will come into India and get Indian citizenship as the Bill does not mention any cut-off date".

This implies that illegal migrants belonging to these religions will not be deported or imprisoned for being in India without valid documents. Already the relation between local Assamese and Hindus of other linguistic groups are not cordial due to their dominance over Assamese people in jobs and business If Assam has to take the burden of several lakh Hindu Bangladesh there will be more friction and social unrest in the state. "I appeal all to maintain peace so that unwanted situations do not develop in the state", he said. Former Congress minister Gautam Roy, supporting the Bill, took the middle path. "The people should, however, continue to express their opinion and speak their mind to the JPC chairman through e-mail", he said. They said there can not be any change to the cut-off date - March 25, 1971 - and those who came later have to be deported, a demand that has kept the pot simmering for close to three decades now.

"When Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 was imposed on Assam, did the then Congress government take the views of the people of Assam?"

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Now it's time for us irrespective of people from the cross-section of the society - to oppose the bill tooth and nail.

Earlier in the day, the members of the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People and pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-P) staged a peaceful rally in the city to protest against the proposed Bill.

However, in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley, a majority of the 315 opinions submitted to the JPC were in favour of the Bill while protests have been taking place on a daily basis in the Brahmaputra valley against the Bill.

While welcoming the decision of Conrad Sangma-led Meghalaya government to oppose the Bill, the AAPSU questioned the stance of the Arunachal government on the issue. "The JPC has not taken any decision as the hearings are not yet over".

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