The Assam government will soon present before the Assembly data on Hindu Bengalis who have been excluded from the final NRC, and who would be eligible to apply for citizenship once the the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed in Parliament, Assam minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said on the sidelines of the first day of winter session on Thursday.
Members belonging to opposition Congress and AIUDF, whose demands for an adjournment motion to discuss the citizenship amendment Bill (CAB) and the NRC was turned down by the Speaker, staged a walkout to protest the Bill and BJP’s demand for scrapping the recently completed NRC and seeking a fresh one.
Sarma told reporters in Assamese: “We want CAB in Assam. According to statistics I have, people whose names have been excluded [from final NRC], if these people are kept on being excluded, many Assembly constituencies might go to the hands of other people. So, in the interest of Assamese people, we need CAB.”
Sarma said, “We could not give the data (on those excluded) earlier because the NRC was not done. Now we have the data. We have district-wise data of how many people can apply in which district…how many lakhs have been excluded, and how many Bengali Hindus will appeal…. This entire data will be presented in Assembly in the ongoing session.”
The Bill proposes to amend Citizenship Act, 1955, by relaxing eligibility rules for immigrants fleeing religious persecution — belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan — in getting Indian citizenship.
In Assam, if the Bill is passed, the immediate implication will be that Bengali Hindus excluded from NRC would be eligible for citizenship — provided they declare themselves as fleeing religious persecution from Bangladesh — and Bengali Muslims would be treated as ‘foreigners’.
Bill controversial in Northeast
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a contentious issue in the Northeast, with influential sociopolitical groups and political parties holding it as a threat to interests of indigenous communities of the region. There have been many protests against Bill in the region. In fact, demonstrations are going on even in the run-up to the Bill being placed before Parliament.
“Who said this NRC should not be scrapped? AIUDF and some Congress MLAs. The fact that they are saying this itself implies that this NRC was in someone’s favour,” Sarma said. He said there should be a single NRC for the entire country, with the same cut-off date for Assam as the country.
He also said Home Minister Amit Shah will hold meetings with all social groups, chief ministers and representatives of political parties, including state Congress units, of the Northeast on CAB on November 29-30.