Breaking News
Top Headlines

Would JPC exclude Assam from Citizenship Bill?

The JPC is making endeavour to elicit opinions from influential socio-political
organizations and leaders on the option of implementing the Bill in other States by excluding Assam; Prafulla Kumar Mahanta says the Bill will have dangerous consequences in a State like Assam as it will play havoc with the socio-cultural fabric of the State; KMSS echoes Mahanta’s line

STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, May 10: As though baffled to the hilt by widespread and just protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has begun to explore the option of implementing the Bill by exempting Assam.
Towards this end, the JPC, which was constituted to examine the Bill and present a report to Parliament to decide the fate of the proposed law, is making endeavour to elicit opinions from influential socio-political organizations and leaders on the option of implementing the Bill in other States by excluding Assam. The JPC had made such effort during its day-long public hearing on the Bill held at Assam Administrative Staff College, Khanapara on Monday. JPC Chairman Rajendra Agrawal sought opinions on the issue from former Chief Minister and senior AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, KMSS founder and peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP)
Sources told The Sentinel that there had been a realization among the JPC members that it would be an uphill task to implement the Bill in Assam which has been facing the brunt of illegal migration from Bangladesh for the past several decades.
“If the Bill is implemented in Assam, the ongoing mammoth exercise of updating the NRC under the supervision of the Supreme Court will prove to be totally meaningless,” a source said, adding the JPC has also been apprised by different organizations that the Bill is a violation of the Constitution of India since it goes against the fundamental spirit of the Assam Accord.
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, a signatory of the Assam Accord, told reporters here on Thursday that the JPC chairman had sought his opinion on the option of implementing the Bill by excluding Assam during Monday’s hearing.
“We told the JPC in clear terms that the AGP and those associated with the anti-foreigners’ movement have been opposing the Bill for the greater interest of the people of Assam. In case the Bill is implemented by exempting Assam, the Centre will have to create special provisions to safeguard the rights and interests of the indigenous people of the State. The Bill, even if implemented in other States, might have adverse impacts in Assam and Meghalaya since both the States do not have the system of Inner Line Permit,” Mahanta said, adding that there is every opportunity for Hindu Bangladeshis to migrate to Assam from other States of the country after getting Indian citizenship once the Bill is implemented.
Citing the example of Bengali refugees from East Bengal, now Bangladesh, who initially settled at Dandakaranya in Chattishgarh and eventually shifted to Assam and Tripura, Mahanta said under no circumstance Hindu Bangladeshis should be allowed to settle or come to Assam by taking advantage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. He said the Bill will have dangerous consequences in a State like Assam as it will play havoc with the socio-cultural fabric of the State.
“We have requested the JPC not give its judgement in favour of the Bill. The Assam Government should vehemently oppose the Bill like its counterpart in Meghalaya. The AASU, being the prime signatory of the Assam Accord, must take the lead to defeat the Centre’s move. Me and few other AGP leaders under the banner of Asom Andolon Sangrami Mancha had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded withdrawal of the Bill,” Mahanta said.
Akhil Gogoi, who was also asked to respond to the option of implementing the Bill by exempting Assam by the JPC, had echoed Mahanta’s line of thought.
On other hand, the AGP on Thursday asked its three ministers –  Atul Bora, Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhusan Choudhury –  in the Sarbananda Sonowal government to raise the issue in the next cabinet meeting and hammer out a solution to the issue by defeating the Centre’s move to implement the Bill in Assam. The party has also asked its legislature party to put pressure on the Assembly Speaker to convene a special Assembly session to pass its resolution against the Bill. AGP general secretary Birendra Prasad Baishya told reporters that the party would keep protesting against the Bill both in Delhi and Dispur.

About the author

Ankur Kalita