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Citizenship Bill: Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal meets Rajnath Singh, gets assurance on Bill, Accord

The citizenship Bill is pending before a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and any move by the Centre will impact the outcome of deliberations being held by the JPC.

Written by Rahul Tripathi | New Delhi |
Updated: May 31, 2018 5:40:36 am
Citizenship Bill: Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal meets Rajnath Singh, gets assurance on Bill, Accord Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal

Amid protests and controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh here on Wednesday and was assured that a committee will be formed to make recommendations for implementation of clause 6 of Assam Accord.

The citizenship Bill is pending before a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and any move by the Centre will impact the outcome of deliberations being held by the JPC.

Explained | Why Citizenship Bill disturbs Assam

Clause 6 of Assam Accord provides for constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people. It is in conflict with the citizenship Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who came to India due to religious persecution in those countries.

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MHA officials said more than 300 representations have been submitted by various groups from Assam’s Barak Valley, dominated by Bengali-speaking people, to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh. A clear divide has emerged in the state with Assamese-speaking people, constituting nearly 43 per cent of the population, opposing the Bill, citing Assam Accord signed after a six-year anti-foreigners’ movement from 1979.

“The apprehension is that citizenship rights to Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh will adversely affect the culture, language and tradition of Assam,” said an official, who was part of the deliberations between Singh and Sonowal.

Post-meeting, Sonowol said, “The Home Minister said that there should be no apprehension in the minds of the people of Assam about the citizenship amendment Bill. He has assured that before taking any step, the people of Assam will be taken into confidence. All stakeholders will be consulted.”

In a statement issued later, the Home Ministry said, “Chief Minister (of) Assam requested (the) Union Home Minister to set up a committee to make recommendations for implementation of clause 6 of Assam Accord, which provides for constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people…. Singh assured the CM that the committee will be set up at the earliest in consultation with the state government.”

Organisations spearheading protests in Assam contend that the citizenship Bill, if passed, would pave the way for giving citizenship to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to Assam.

Sonowal said all efforts will be made to address concerns of the people of Assam in this regard.

Besides the Citizenship Bill, Sonowol also took up various administrative and security arrangements related to updation exercise of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), to be completed by June 30 this year. It was suggested that arrangements required to dispose of claims and objections after publication of the next draft NRC needs to be made, and an adequate opportunity must be given to people in this regard and necessary arrangements made to avoid any inconvenience to the public, the MHA stated.

A massive exercise to update the NRC was being carried out in Assam following a directive of the Supreme Court in 2005. In all, 3.29 crore people applied for inclusion in NRC. In the first list, 1.9 crore names were included.

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