ITANAGAR: Unfazed by protests in the Northeast against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, the BJP has said that it will once again pursue it if voted back to power at the Centre.

The party released its Lok Sabha election manifesto on Monday, with a promise to pass the Bill.

The CAB was passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this year but lapsed in the Rajya Sabha which was adjourned before it could be tabled.

The party manifesto says that it is “committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution”.

Seeking to address the concerns voiced over the bill by political parties and civil society organisations in the Northeast, the BJP manifesto says it will “make all efforts to clarify the issues to the sections of population from the north-eastern states who have expressed apprehensions regarding the legislation”.

It also says the BJP is committed to “protecting the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast”.

The manifesto’s promise that “Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs escaping persecution from India's neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India” has now been updated to include Christians.

Recently, BJP MP from Arunachal West and Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told journalists here that even if the bill is passed and becomes law in other parts of the country, it will not be implemented in the region.

“People must have not been sensitised properly so there is misunderstanding, but I want to make it clear that even if the Citizenship Bill is implemented across the nation, in the state and the Northeast which is a protected area, we will never change it and the protected status will remain intact,” he said in reference to the constitutional protection provided in tribal-populated states in the region.

In another interview Rijiju repeatedly said that no harm would come to the state if the bill were passed and implemented in other parts of the country.

He said that a separate clause for the Northeast and Arunachal Pradesh was not needed since it is already protected under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, which stipulates that even citizens of other states are required to obtain inner line permits to enter restricted tribal areas.

Despite the BJP’s reassurances the North East Students Organisation (NESO), a conglomerate of student bodies from seven states, is upset with the announcement.

A statement from NESO says that the region was “up in arms in recent months against the move by the Government of India to pass this bill in the Rajya Sabha”.

It says that the government’s commitment to passing the bill “clearly shows that it has no regard for the welfare of the microscopic indigenous communities of the Northeast, but rather this move is to reduce us to a minority in our own land”.

The statement says that the NESO “does not distinguish people on the basis of their religion” and that “a foreigner is a foreigner irrespective whether Muslim or Hindu”.

“NESO would like to send a clear message that it will not allow anyone to put our future generation at risk and the movement is on and will continue for uplift, safeguard, protection from both internal and external aggression,” it adds.