I will project Himanta as PM of sovereign Assam: Paresh Baruah 

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Himanta lobs bizarre term for scrapping Citizenship Bill

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Nov 25: Assam finance minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday put a bizarre condition for scrapping of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 saying that the government will do so provided the proscribed ULFA C-in-C Paresh Baruah comes to the negotiating table.

“BJP-led NDA government will scrap the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, if ULFA-I C-in-C come to the mainstream,” Sarma told reporters here.

However, Sarma’s comment invited sharp reaction from Paresh Baruah who immediately said, “Let Union government start talks on sovereignty of Assam and we are ready to talk.”

“We will project Himanta Biswa Sarma as the prime minister of sovereign Assam,” Baruah told a local news channel here minutes after Sarma’s statement.

“I will not surrender. I can’t betray the cause for which I joined this struggle. I have no issues if the government of India offers to hold talks with me. The Assam government would have no role in it, as it is the Central government that has to deal with me. I would also like to make it clear that the government of India would have to set aside the Constitution of India while talking to me,” Baruah said, as quoted by The Week on November 24.

Reacting to the report about several youth of the state joining the banned outfit, the minister said, “Why it is being said that the Bill is the reason behind the youth joining the ULFA-I?

The Citizenship Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians migrated from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan till 2014.”

Sarma also avoided questions on ‘missing’ Rebati Phukan, who was working as a interlocutor between the Centre and ULFA-I since 1991 to facilitate a peace dialogue.

He said that the updating of National register of citizens (NRC) has been overlooked due to the massive protest against the Citizenship Bill across the state.

“Whatever decision the JPC takes, it will be for the benefit of the nation,” he said.

He also lambasted the Congress party for its double standard on the Bill. “It is being said that 1.5 crore people will come to Assam if the Bill is passed…what is the basis of such statements? From where did they get this figure as the Bill is yet to be passed. In Barak Valley, Congress says it wants the Bill, in other places it demands withdrawal of the Bill…cannot make out what they want,” he said.

Castigating Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), he said that AGP is free to break the alliance with the BJP.

“Congress is an enemy of both AGP and BJP. AIUDF is an enemy of Assam’s people,” Sharma said adding that AGP has no right to protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 as “900 people had sacrificed their lives demanding fixation of 1951 as the base year.”

“AGP leaders accepted 1971 as base year. In the regime of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Citizenship Bill was amended. So, they have no right to oppose the Bill,” he said.

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