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Protest in Kohima, Itanagar and Imphal against citizenship amendment bill

The Bill, in its present form, seeks to declare Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan as eligible for citizenship.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 04, 2019, 10.50 AM IST
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PTI
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The BJP-led government has announced its plan of reintroducing the Citizenship Bill after consultation with stakeholders and sufficient tweaking.

GUWAHATI: Protestors marched through the streets of Kohima, Itanagar and Imphal on Thursday against the BJP-led central government’s proposal to reintroduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill, in its present form, seeks to declare Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship.

In Kohima, the Nagaland Joint Committee on Prevention of Illegal Immigrants (JCPI) held a protest march which started from Badminton Stadium and ended outside the residence of chief minister N Rio. The protestors submitted a memorandum to the chief minister.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the protest was led by the Northeast Forum for Indigenous People. The forum said that prior to elections, the chief minister, Pema Khandu, had assured that he will not support the Bill. “However, home minister Amit Shah recently said in Assam that the new Citizenship Bill will be introduced in the next session of parliament,” it said.

The JCPI asked the chief ministers of the northeastern states to come together and oppose the Bill. “At present, there are three to four lakh illegal occupants in Dimapur, and with Assam publishing the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) on August 31, this is going to rise further. Once there is CAB, these occupants will be naturalised and Nagaland will not be same,” it said.

In Imphal, hundreds of women and students protested against Bill. The Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MANPAC), which spearheaded the protest, said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will render the Assam Accord null and void.

“The bill is giving preference to outsiders and overlooking the indigenous people. If required, we will seek United Nations’ intervention,” said Dilipkumar Yumnamcha, convener of MANPAC.

In Assam, the All-Assam Students Union (Aasu) said it will not accept violation of the Assam Accord. The Centre’s move to try and give citizenship to foreigners on the basis of religion is unconstitutional as India is a secular country.

Aasu had led a six-year-long anti-foreigners movement, leading to the inking of the Assam Accord in 1985. As per the accord, the date of detection and deportation of foreigners is March 25, 1971, irrespective of religious affiliation. For the rest of the country, the year is 1951.

The BJP in Assam said the Bill will help curb the flow of migrants seeking citizenship in the country.

Syed Muminul Aowal, BJP spokesperson and chairman of Assam Minority Development Board, said the opposition is using CAB as a tool to further its political interest by saying that our state will be flooded with migrants. “But the fact is, as the proposed CAB will have December 31, 2014 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship, the question of flow of migrants for indefinite period seeking citizenship will end once and for all. Under the present provision, one has to wait for 12 years... This wait period in CAB may be reduced, say by six years, but the cut-off date will be there to stop further granting of citizenship to migrants beyond that date,” Aowal said.

The BJP-led government has announced its plan of reintroducing the Citizenship Bill after consultation with stakeholders and sufficient tweaking.

Union home minister Amit Shah will visit Mizoram on October 5. He is expected to address party workers. Shah, who visited Guwahati last month, assured party members that the new Bill will be brought in parliament only after the consultation with the stakeholders.

Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma recently said that stakeholder discussion is on. The home minister has stated that the Bill will be brought in in the next session of parliament, and before that consultation process has to be over. “In the next one month, you will see the visit of important BJP leaders to the region. Consultation is on at various levels.”

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha during the Narendra Modi-led government’s earlier tenure.

In its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had said, “We are committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution.”
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