With the NDA government proposing to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, political parties, student bodies and citizens in Assam have once again expressed fear that this would mostly affect the state and reduce the Assamese and other indigenous communities into a minority.
“Assam will be the worst affected because while a large number of Hindus from Bangladesh have already illegally entered the state in the past several decades, more would come and seek to stay here, in the process causing a further damage to the state’s demography and reduce the Assamese and other indigenous communities into a minority,” Samujjal Bhattacharyya, chief advisor of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) said here on Sunday.
The AASU, which has a platform of 28 student bodies representing various indigenous communities of the state, has also threatened to launch an agitation in the event of the Centre trying to force the Bill on Assam. “Assam has already taken enough burden of people from the neighbouring country. Moreover, the BJP-led government had come to power in the state on the promise of protecting the identity and interests of the indigenous communities,” Bhattacharyya said.
The AASU leader also pointed out that while the NDA had referred the Bill in 2016 to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), the latter never came to Assam to take views of the people here. “The JPC took views of the AASU, but not of other stakeholders including political parties and citizens,” he said.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an ally of the BJP, meanwhile has strongly opposed the Bill. “The AGP is clear in its stand againt this Bill that would render the Assam Accord meaningless and directly affect the identity of Assamese and other indigenous communities of the state,” AGP president Atul Bora, who is also a minister in the BJP-led government of Sarbananda Sonowal, said. Asom Yuva Parishad (AYP), the regional party’s youth wing on the other hand warned that Assam would burn if the Bill was passed.
The Left and Democratic Alliance (LDM), comprising of the CPI(M), CPI and other non-Congress non-BJP parties of the state on the other hand accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of trying to grant citizenship on the basis of religion, and said Assam would be the worst affected by it. “The Centre must understand the gravity of the situation because all groups, parties, organisations and socio-cultural organisations in Assam, barring the BJP are opposed to it,” LDM convenor Debeswar Bhattacharyya said.
A group of citizens including leading intellectual and former Gauhati University professor Hiren Gohain on the other hand asked all groups and parties cutting across ideologies to stand united against the Centre’s move. “This Bill will endanger language and culture of Assam and change the state’s demography once for all,” the intellectuals, in an appeal said.
The Congress party on its part has asked chief minister Sonowal to make his stand clear on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. “Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal should immediately make his stand clear as to whether he really supports the Bill that will facilitate settlement of lakhs of Hindu migrants in Assam. He had come to power on the promise of protecting the identity of the Assamese and other indigenous communities,” APCC president Ripun Bora said.
The ruling BJP meanwhile claimed it had, since inception, stood for providing shelter to religious minorities fleeing neighbouring countries because of religious persecution. “Our party has been clear since the beginning that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Christians forced to leave the neighbouring countries should be given shelter in India. The notion that is being spread that crores of Hindus from Bangladesh will land in Assam is unfounded,” BJP state spokesman Rupam Goswami said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines