Allaying fears on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday informed the Upper House of Parliament that the Bill assured that the government was committed to preserving the distinct culture and identity of the Northeast. He said the Bill will pave way for Indian citizenship to the persecuted religious minorities from three countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan based on some conditions.
The minister said he was aware of the concerns regarding the Bill as well as misconceptions being spread about it but would like to dispel the apprehensions of the people of Assam and the Northeast. He said it is not only for migrants in these states but to “protect migrants of six minority communities from three nations” and was applicable to the entire country.
He said there were reports of sporadic violence from some parts in Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya during the bandh called over the Bill, but the situation was fully under control. Singh said he was in touch with the Chief Ministers of these states and would convene meetings soon.
“I assure the House that we are committed to preserve Northeast’s identity and culture…We want a peaceful situation in the Northeast and are in constant touch with the state governments. We will strive to protect the identity and culture of the Northeast and will take steps to address all concerns,” he said.
He said due to steps taken by the Centre in the past four years, including augmenting security and intelligence establishment and ensuring coordination among security agencies, there have been unprecedented reforms in the Northeast’s security situation and it is on the path of development.
The Home Minister said Assam was facing the problem of illegal migration for long and witnessed an agitation from 1979 to 1985 following which the Assam Accord was signed on August 15, 1985. He said the Centre has taken concrete steps to implement the Assam Accord, including completing the task of NRC and has constituted a high-level committee to implement clause 6 of the Accord.
A Home Ministry appointed committee has given its recommendations on December 29 on the grant of ST status to six communities of Assam, namely Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak. He said the government has accepted the recommendations and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has placed it before Parliament. While giving ST status to these communities, it will be ensured that “interests, rights and privileges of the existing tribes there will be fully protected,” he added.
Rajnath made the statement in response to a demand by Congress members protesting over the situation in Northeast over the Bill. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday and was brought to the Upper House after extending its sitting by a day. Congress members, including Ripun Bora, wanted the Home Minister to be called to the House to make a statement on the citizenship Bill. The Bill was originally introduced in 2016 and was later sent to the JPC, which submitted its report on Monday. The Bill was brought back to Lok Sabha on Tuesday with changes.