The Centre’s perverse determition to push through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 despite its flaws and the inherent injustice to the State of Assam is indeed most deplorable and deserves to be opposed tooth and il within the State as well as in New Delhi. It is unfortute that ministers of Assam like Himanta Biswa Sarma should have strongly defended the Bill with the argument that the passage of the bill would restore the commul balance of the State which was gravely threatened by the large-scale illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Sarma was arguing that giving Indian citizenship through the amended Bill to Hindus from Bangladesh would help to preserve the Hindu majority of the State. He seemed to have completely overlooked the fact that Assam already had a huge burden of Bangladeshi immigrants and that it would be cruel on the part of the Union government to ect a law that would add an additiol load of Bangladeshi Hindus to the State. This is being sought to be done despite the fact that even the two States of India where Bengali is spoken by the majority—mely Bengal and Tripura—have refused to take on this burden of Bangladeshi Hindus. Assam Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal has been more open-minded and pro-people on this issue. He had gone to the extent of meeting Satyapal Singh, chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and requesting the committee to visit Guwahati in order to discuss the issue exhaustively with heads of political parties, organizations and citizens before making the Bill a law. Accordingly, the 30-member JPC had agreed to visit Guwahati on November 2 and 3. However, on October 31 the members of the JPC were intimated by the Parliament Secretariat on behalf of Satyapal Singh that the scheduled visit to Guwahati was postponed indefinitely. Quite obviously, this has been done at the behest of the BJP top brass that is adamant about pushing through the Amendment Bill despite all opposition from the people of Assam.
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former Chief Minister of Assam, has taken a firm stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. On Monday, he told jourlists that the decision of the BJP-led government to bring non-Muslim Bangladeshis into the State might have a terrible impact on the social structure of the State, and that he and the Asom Ga Parishad were strongly opposed to that. He said his party could hardly accept any decision which went against the Assam Accord. He claimed that the Union Home Ministry could not violate the provisions of the Assam Accord. Mahanta requested the BJP-led government in Dispur to reconsider its stand on the foreigners issue and appealed to the State government to oppose the decision of the BJP in the greater interests of the indigenous people.
Regardless of what the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will do to the provisions of the Assam Accord, it is a piece of legislation that violates the Indian Constitution that is committed to secularism. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Bill will be struck down by the Supreme Court as being ultra vires the Constitution. As such, should the Union government persist with its intention to push through this Bill, it will be the duty of all right-thinking people of Assam to consider an appeal against the Bill in the Supreme Court. It is important that we learn from our past mistakes. The appeal to the Supreme Court should not be delayed as was the case with the appeal against the IM(DT) Act.