Speaking at a huge public rally here on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated his government’s commitment to passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, while reassuring the people of Assam and the Northeast that they would not face any difficulty due to it. Saying his government was committed to protecting the culture and interests of the people of the Northeast and Assam, he said that “only after requisite checks and requests from the state government can the decision to grant citizenship be taken”.
Addressing the rally that was attended by over three lakh people, of various communities and tribes, Modi said those “who believed in Maa Bharati (Mother India)” but were persecuted in their native countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan had nowhere to go to but India. At the same time, Modi said, there was no place for “ghuspetiyon (illegal immigrants)” in the country.
“We need to understand the difference between those who have come to encroach on our resources and those who have come to India after fleeing religious persecution. The Bill is not just connected to Assam and the Northeast but many other parts of the country. There are people who have faith in Maa Bharati, who sing glory to Bharat Mata, who had to save their dignity and lives and seek refuge in the lap of Maa Bharati,” Modi said.
Modi promised that he would allow “no harm to come to the people of the region due to the Bill”. “Whether they have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh, they were all part of India before Partition. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis became minorities in their countries. It is the duty of Hindustan to protect them… I have come to tell you that huge misinformation is being spread about the amendment to citizenship laws. People who have ruined this country are now spreading lies and misinformation about the Bill for their own benefit.”
Modi started his speech in Assamese and kept interspersing his Hindi speech with it, while lashing out at the Assamese press, saying that although reporters were covering his rally, the news would not find a mention in Sunday’s papers. The Assamese media has been covering the protests against the Bill across the region widely.
The BJP is facing stiff protests across the Northeast over the legislation, which amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, by relaxing the eligibility rules for an immigrant belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, in getting Indian citizenship. Modi too was shown black flags during his visit.
With many in the Northeast — including even some BJP leaders and powerful social organisations — holding the Bill to be a threat to the indigenous people of the region, the PM said, “Stop playing with the people of Assam. I will not let anyone destroy Assam for vote bank politics.”
On the NRC, which is a contentious issue too in Assam, Modi said, “The previous government was shying away from implementing the NRC. We have started the NRC under Supreme Court monitoring. Our attempt is to implement the NRC on time.”
Underlining his government’s “total commitment to protecting the language, culture and resources of the people of Assam and the Northeast”, he said, “Efforts are on to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord as soon as possible. For this purpose we have formed a committee. I am sure this committee will take into account your emotions, hopes and aspirations and submit its report.”
Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord promises safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese.
During the course of his visit, Modi inaugurated several development projects in Assam, including laying the foundation stone for a bridge connecting Guwahati to North-Guwahati over the Brahmaputra.
Later, at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh, Modi focused his speech on the development of the Northeast, while inaugurating or laying foundation stones for several projects, including two airports, and launching a dedicated Doordarshan channel for the state.
Describing Arunachal Pradesh as “strategically important”, he accused previous governments of not paying attention to development of the state. “In the past few years, the Centre has given funds worth Rs 44,000 crore, which is double of what previous governments allocated for the state.”
Modi also went to Agartala, where he inaugurated more projects, including a railway line and a complex of the Tripura Institute of Technology. Speaking in Tripura, he repeated that the coming together of opposition parties was “Mahamilawat (grand adulteration)” and asked if the parties “who take photos holding hands in Delhi and Kolkata would be willing to join hands in states like Tripura or Kerala”.
“Nowadays there is a competition to abuse Modi… whenever they meet they just swear at Modi. If you ask them about their vision for farmers, they will use abusive words for Modi. If you ask them about their vision for workers, they will abuse Modi further. If you ask them about their vision for the youth, they will abuse Modi even more.”