Demographic threat to North-East

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, has caused widespread fear and consternation in Assam in particular and the North-East in general. The Bill, if and when it becomes an Act, will give Indian citizenship to all persons belonging to all religions, except the Muslims, emigrating from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to India. For this purpose, the Third Schedule of the original Act of 1955 will be amended to reduce the period of residence in India from eleven years to six years. The proposed Bill militates against the secular Constitution of India which makes no discrimination between citizens on the ground of their religion. The proposed amendment is defective on this count. Secondly, as far as Assam is concerned, the proposed Bill contravenes the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, signed between the leaders of the Assam anti-foreigner movement and the Government of India. The Accord specifically lays down that only those people from erstwhile East Pakistan or the present Bangladesh “Who came to Assam after 1.1.1966 (inclusive) and upto 24th March, 1971” shall be detected and their names deleted from the electoral rolls.
The people and political parties in Assam (except the ruling BJP) are totally opposed to making any change that provides a demographic safeguard to the Assamese-speaking people against the threat of their being outnumbered and reduced to a minority in their own land by a deluge of people coming from Bangladesh. Before the 2014 elections, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi gave a solemn assurance to the people of Assam that all Bangladeshis living illegally in Assam will be deported to Bangladesh. But his volte face after the elections and offering to welcome non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh and giving them Indian citizenship has antagonized the Assamese people. The Asom Gana Parisahd (AGP) which is a partner of the BJP in the ruling coalition has totally opposed the Bill and is facing the threat of a split: those who are ministers in the Sonowal Cabinet or are members of the AGP legislature party may defy party whip if they are asked to resign and prefer to join the BJP formally. 
What is more, Assam may again see a mass agitation against the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill, of the same dimension and intensity as was witnessed during the 1979-85 Anti-Foreigner Movement. Moreover, it is feared that the new National Register of Citizens that is being prepared will take away the citizenship right of many genuine Indian nationals, both Hindus and Muslims, because of the documents that are required to prove their residence. The Centre should withdraw the Bill.

Thursday, 28 June, 2018