KOKRAJHAR: Former Rajya Sabha MP UG Brahma, while observing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill CAB, 2016 passed by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, said the statements made by Assam ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma and Atul Bora were nothing but old wine in new bottle.
Brahma said that as per the statements made by Himanta Biswa Sarma, State Finance Minister and convener of NEDA, and AGP president Atul Bora, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 would be redesigned. “Should we go by the government’s assurance that the new CAB will accommodate some unambiguous exclusive arrangement for the north-eastern region?” He said the main issue was not supporting or opposing the bill, but how the interpretations were given by the government in this regard. He also said that as per the impression given by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the points which are likely to be included in the new bill could be that December 31, 2014 would be cut off year, States having Inner Line Permit (ILP) status will be exempted from the purview of the Act, States and areas covered under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution will also be exempted, the interests of the indigenous and tribal people will be protected and safety and security of the Assamese language and culture will be ensured.
Brahma said, “CAB is not about land and property rights, it is about right to acquiring citizenship. Residents in India and people, who may come or have already come from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution, will have opportunity to acquire citizenship by living only for 7 years period.” He said that there would be a single and common status of citizens. No area restriction or division of category exists in the definition of citizenship and a citizen of India means citizen of all States or areas of the country, he said. Brahma said that States like Manipur were covered neither by the ILP nor by the Sixth Schedule provision and only 70 per cent area of Tripura was under Sixth Schedule provision. “On the other hand, Assam has only three Sixth Schedule areas and the entire State is not covered by any other restrictive law or provision. If a person is granted citizenship in Tinsukia then nothing can deny his or her the right of being citizen in any part of Assam, including the scheduled areas,” he said, adding that there was no provision of partial implementation of the Act in the same State and even Clause 6 of the Assam Accord would become ineffective in that case.
Brahma said that if Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had been convinced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s commitment then nothing could prevent the Bill from being translated into Act. In fact, the current consultation was simply a pre-legislation exercise of gathering opinion in favour of the Bill, he said.