NEW DELHI, April 8 - Setting at rest all speculation, the BJP on Monday confirmed that the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be reintroduced by the party if it is voted to power again. The Sankalp Patra (manifesto), released by the BJP this afternoon, just two days ahead of the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, focused on several issues concerning the Northeast, including peace talks with militant outfits though it avoided mention of controversial issues like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The manifesto, however, will put alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in a tight spot as the regional party has been opposing the CAB and had quit the alliance over the issue.
The manifesto release function was attended by party president Amit Shah, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, besides senior party functionaries.
�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,� Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, releasing the manifesto.
�We will make all efforts to clarify the issues to the sections of population from the northeastern states who have expressed apprehensions regarding the legislation. We reiterate our commitment to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution from India�s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India,� said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
�There has been a huge change in the cultural and linguistic identity of some areas due to illegal immigration, resulting in an adverse impact on local people�s livelihood and employment,� the BJP admitted.
At the same time, the BJP will expeditiously complete the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and actively consider its extension to other states.
�We will expeditiously complete the NRC process in these areas on priority. In future we will implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country,� the BJP said.
�We will continue to undertake effective steps to prevent illegal immigration in the northeastern states. For this, we will further strengthen our border security. A pilot project on the use of technology to strengthen border security (Smart Fencing) was implemented in Dhubri. We will implement this on all borders,� the party said.
�We have completed building six integrated check-posts with another under construction to facilitate easier trade and travel from the neighbouring countries. We will further ease the movement of goods and people by constructing 14 more integrated check-posts by 2024,� the BJP promised.
After completion of all the proposed integrated check-posts, all trade movement with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan will be conducted through the integrated check-posts.
�We have ensured that the insurgency in the northeastern states is brought under control and the security situation in these states improved significantly. We will leverage this situation to ensure accelerated development of the northeastern states,� the manifesto said.
�We will continue to focus on the development of infrastructure and improved connectivity in this region to ensure that the northeastern states duly participate in the economic progress of the country. We will continue to take the necessary steps to leverage the tremendous potential of hydroelectric, tourism, horticulture in the northeastern states,� the manifesto said.
�We will set up new �Entrepreneurial Northeast� scheme to provide financial support to the micro, small and medium industries and for employment generation in the northeastern states,� it said.
The BJP said that the Northeast, which earlier made headlines for blockage and neglect, is now witnessing unprecedented development. The Northeast is now closer to the national mainstream in more ways than one,� the party claimed.
Meanwhile, talking to newsmen, All Assam Students Union adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said that they will not accept the Bill, because it is a threat to the existence, culture and language of the ingenious people.
�The entire Northeast will again protest. It is because of their opposition the Centre could not muster support to introduce the CAB in Rajya Sabha. But despite that their (the BJP) national president announced in Assam that they will bring the Bill,� he said.
�Nobody has the right to play with the future of indigenous people of the region and we strongly warn that they should not try this in the Northeast,� Bhattacharya said.
About the NRC exercise, Bhattacharya said it is only because of the Supreme Court�s initiative that the NRC process is continuing. �The Congress party had filed an affidavit stating that the cut-off date should be 2014. The Supreme Court has expressed its displeasure at the functioning of the Central government and Assam government. The entire credit goes to the Supreme Court,� he added.