Centre Blinks on Citizenship Amendment Bill
Promises Consultations Amidst Mass Protests
GUWAHATI: Following mass opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Assam, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that no further steps will be taken now without consultation with all the stakeholders.
The bill which seeks to grant citizenship to the minorities (non-Muslims) of the neighbouring countries who have come here up till December 31 of 2014 was tabled in 2016 but has drawn much criticism for the decision of granting citizenship on the basis of religion.
During a high level meeting with Assam Chief Ministers Sarbananda Sonowal and other top officials of the state government in New Delhi on Wednesday, Rajnath Singh said that the Centre will not take any further step regarding the Citizenship Amendment Bill without thorough consultation with all stakeholders.
A statement to the press said, “Moreover, all efforts will be made to address the concerns of the people of Assam in this regard. Union home minister Rajnath Singh, while agreeing to the request of Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in this regard, conveyed the decision of the union government during the meeting."
During the last couple of years, the state – especially the Brahmaputra valley has witnessed mass protests against the bill.More than 280 organizations and civil society and political parties except the BJP have opposed the bill vehemently.
Most of the groups have accepted the cut off date to identify the illegal citizens March 25 of 1971 when Bangladesh was liberated from Pakistan. This date has been unanimously accepted by most of the organizations and political parties as per Assam Accord which was signed in 1985 with the Centre.
The Assam Accord was the outcome of a six-year long Assam agitation to flush out all outsiders in early 1980s.
The meeting on Wednesday was held to discuss various administrative and security arrangements related to National Register of Citizens (NRC) update exercise as per the orders of the Supreme Court of India which is underway in Assam at the moment. The NRC is supposed to be an exercise to list genuine Indian citizens and it’s being updated in Assam after 1951.
Sonowal during the discussion also requested Singh to set up a committee to make recommendations for implementation of Clause 6 of Assam Accord which provides for constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
Singh assured the CM that the committee will be set up at the earliest in consultation with the state government.
The meeting chaired by Singh also discussed the arrangements required to dispose of claims and objections after publication of draft NRC.
Sonowal during the discussion emphasized that adequate opportunity is given to people in this regard and necessary arrangements are made to avoid any inconvenience to the public, and all claims and objections are disposed of as per law and in a proper manner.
He also said that a strong IEC campaign may be launched to inform people about process of filing claims and objections after publication of final draft NRC.
Later talking to the media, after the meeting, Sonowal said that the NRC update process is going on smoothly in the state under the guidance of the Supreme Court of India and it is on the verge of completion. He stated that both central and state governments are extending full support for seamless progress of the NRC update and the second draft would be published on June 30.
He urged the people not to panic if any of their names are not included in the drafts as they would be given ample time to register their claims and objections in the courts and each of them would get equal opportunity.
Regarding the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the CM said that the central government would take the people of the state into full confidence and hold consultations with all organizations before taking any further step in this regard.
The meeting was also attended by Union home secretary Rajeev Gauba, chief secretary of Assam TY Das, DGP Assam Kuladhar Saikia and other senior officers of government of India and government of Assam.