BJP, AGP now in huddle over Citizenship Bill, says Himanta

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 ‘Our fight is against Bangladeshi Muslims’ ** ‘CAB not to affect BJP’s poll prospects’

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, March 24: Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has indicated that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has begun discussions with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on reintroducing the much-debated Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament.

“We have tried to discuss the Bill logically with the AGP. We have discussed introducing safeguards in the Bill to ensure that it does not hit people’s sentiments,” Sarma said adding “We will prepare a more acceptable Bill. Hopefully, we will see the Bill next June or July”.

It may be mentioned that two months after pulling out over the controversial Citizenship Bill, the AGP and BJP are back as allies in poll-bound Assam.

Speaking to the media, the Assam minister exuded confidence that the issue of Citizenship would not affect the prospects of BJP in polls.

“No election is fought on a single issue. The opinion on the Bill may be divided, but when it comes to the Northeast and the development that has taken place under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi… there has been no ‘for’ and ‘against’. People feel they have been given a fair deal,” he said.

It may be mentioned that in a major setback for the ruling BJP, the Citizenship Bill was not tabled in the Upper House of the Parliament on February 13th, 2019. The BJP government at the Centre has been pitching for the early passage of the legislation. The Bill is set to lapse on June 3rd, 2019 when the term of the present Lok Sabha ends.

Referring to the recent protest over the Bill in the tribal states of the Northeastern region, Sarma said that the tribal culture is very strong in the region. “We can incorporate certain things which will assure the people in such villages that this Bill will not affect their culture and rights. We have started the process again. People have realised that the BJP has good a intention, that is to protect the Northeast,” he said.

“Muslims from Assam, Uttar Pradesh or Bihar are different from Bangladeshi Muslims,” he said.

Dwelling on the perennial problem of illegal immigration to the region, the saffron party leader said that Muslim migrants from Bangladesh were posing a serious threat to the country “whereas the people of other religions cannot create additional political or cultural challenges”.

He further claimed that the people of Assam are facing identity crisis only from Bangladeshi Muslims and further cited that monasteries are being encroached upon, temples are being demolished every day, temple land is being encroached for madrasas.

The minister also said that the identity of the people living in detention camps should be digitally recorded and they should not be allowed to claim Indian citizenship in other states but they should be given basic human rights.

He also said when the Assam Accord was signed, the cut-off should have been 1951 but Rajiv Gandhi imposed upon leaders of the Assam Agitation to make the cut-off 1971.

Stating that Assam took on the burden of illegal immigrants between 1951-71 who are foreigners as per the Citizenship Bill, and the Constitution, Sarma said that the BJP government wants to make them Indian in the context of Assam.

He also added that around 30 lakh people imposed serious political and cultural threat to the people of Assam so Rajiv Gandhi incorporated Clause 6 in the Assam Accord.

Sarma said that at present the BJP is trying to implement the Assam Accord, which is a protection against people who have been regularized between 1951 to 1971.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant nationality to people belonging to minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of their residence in India.

Massive protests broke out across the Northeast region after the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha.


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