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�CAA rules won�t consider religious persecution�

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Jan 18 - The State government has requested the Centre to allow only a �short window� for filing applications under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 so that the ongoing controversy and confusion over the number of likely beneficiaries can be cleared up at the earliest, said Finance Minister and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Sarma also said proof of religious persecution will not be a criterion to seek citizenship under the CAA.

�We want a very short window period (for filing applications seeking citizenship under the CAA) because in Assam so much rumour is going on... one crore, 1.2 crore. Our view is that the number of applicants in Assam will be in the range of three to five lakh. And these are people who have been staying in Assam since 1972 or 1975. We want to finish this confusion. So, we have requested the Government of India for a very short window period...� said Sarma.

The Finance Minister said the rules of the CAA, which are now being framed, will have three components.

�First, you have to prove that you belong to that particular religion (members of which are eligible for citizenship under the CAA). Second, you have to prove that you came to India before (December 31) 2014. Third, you have to prove that you came from the designated countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan)... But the fear of religious persecution or religious persecution, you cannot prove it. How can you prove it?� Sarma said.

Asked if keeping religious persecution out of the list of proofs does not go against the very spirit of the CAA, he said, �You want a person to go back to Bangladesh and collect some video-graphic or photographic evidence of religious persecution? The Government of India has to assess whether, say in 1992, there was religious persecution or not, whether there were that kind of incidents or not. So what proof of religious persecution do you want? If I ask you a counter-question and ask you to give suggestions on how one will prove that he or she is subjected to religious persecution.�

�Our firm view is that in order to prove that I have come to Assam before (December 31) 2014, either you have to prove it through some government account, suppose a bank account opened before (December 31) 2014 or have name in electoral roll prior to (December 31) 2014 or your NRC application prior to (December 31) 2014. The Assam government is of the firm opinion that an applicant has to prove his bona fide residency in Assam prior to (December 31) 2014. That is what we have submitted to the Government of India,� he said. Sarma said NRC application filed before the cut-off date mentioned in the CAA has been suggested as evidence.

�� electoral roll of 2011 can be a piece of evidence. A bank account opened with SBI in 2012 can be evidence. A matriculate certificate obtained from SEBA in 1975 can be one of the proofs. So your ARN number in NRC can also be proof. What we have said is that you need a very solid proof that you have come to India, or particularly to Assam, prior to (December 31) 2014. We have requested the Government of India that during the framing of the rule please ensure that no person of other religion can submit an affidavit saying that I am a Hindu. We need to safeguard against that. We need safeguard that the particular person has come prior to (December 31) 2014. If need be, there should be physical verification,� said the senior BJP leader.

Attack on AASU: Sarma took the opportunity to launch a scathing attack on the AASU and its leadership, as well as some alleged past actions of the students� body. �We welcome the announcement made by AASU�s president and secretary that they are going to form a political party. We will prove that people of Assam are with Narendra Modi and with the BJP,� he said.

Sarma added, �In 1985, some people signed the Assam Accord only to become ministers. This time also the same drama is getting repeated. People of Assam are now mature.�

Sarma said BJP is not worried about the prospect of the Congress extending support to a new party likely to be formed by AASU.

�The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had in 1979 offered 1966 as the base year. Why the then leadership of AASU did not accept it? The reason was that at that time, they (AASU leaders) had not attained the age of being eligible to contest elections. In 1985, they signed the Assam Accord with an even late cut-off date because by that time they were old enough to be eligible to contest elections,� said the NEDA convenor.

He claimed that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had offered AASU the Centre�s help to identify 70 lakh foreigners residing in Assam. �Why was that offer rejected? If that offer was rejected as part of the plan to form a new political party, then I am confident that people of Assam are now mature and will take an appropriate decision,� Sarma said.

Regarding the ongoing controversy over the cut-off date as mentioned in the Assam Accord, Sarma said, �Base year mentioned is 1966... By naturalisation 1966, by registration 1971. Why did they agree to NRC by 1971 naturalisation? ... Let them (AASU) say that sub-clauses 5.1 to 5.5 are not part of the Assam Accord... For long, people on TV talk shows were questioning us about how can we talk of Clause 6 without first talking of Clause 5. As I mentioned Clause 5 in the Assembly, the AASU is now talking only of sub-clause 5.6 without first referring to sub-clauses 5.1 to 5.5. Sub-clause 5.1 mentions that base year and date is 1966.�

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�CAA rules won�t consider religious persecution�

GUWAHATI, Jan 18 - The State government has requested the Centre to allow only a �short window� for filing applications under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 so that the ongoing controversy and confusion over the number of likely beneficiaries can be cleared up at the earliest, said Finance Minister and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Sarma also said proof of religious persecution will not be a criterion to seek citizenship under the CAA.

�We want a very short window period (for filing applications seeking citizenship under the CAA) because in Assam so much rumour is going on... one crore, 1.2 crore. Our view is that the number of applicants in Assam will be in the range of three to five lakh. And these are people who have been staying in Assam since 1972 or 1975. We want to finish this confusion. So, we have requested the Government of India for a very short window period...� said Sarma.

The Finance Minister said the rules of the CAA, which are now being framed, will have three components.

�First, you have to prove that you belong to that particular religion (members of which are eligible for citizenship under the CAA). Second, you have to prove that you came to India before (December 31) 2014. Third, you have to prove that you came from the designated countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan)... But the fear of religious persecution or religious persecution, you cannot prove it. How can you prove it?� Sarma said.

Asked if keeping religious persecution out of the list of proofs does not go against the very spirit of the CAA, he said, �You want a person to go back to Bangladesh and collect some video-graphic or photographic evidence of religious persecution? The Government of India has to assess whether, say in 1992, there was religious persecution or not, whether there were that kind of incidents or not. So what proof of religious persecution do you want? If I ask you a counter-question and ask you to give suggestions on how one will prove that he or she is subjected to religious persecution.�

�Our firm view is that in order to prove that I have come to Assam before (December 31) 2014, either you have to prove it through some government account, suppose a bank account opened before (December 31) 2014 or have name in electoral roll prior to (December 31) 2014 or your NRC application prior to (December 31) 2014. The Assam government is of the firm opinion that an applicant has to prove his bona fide residency in Assam prior to (December 31) 2014. That is what we have submitted to the Government of India,� he said. Sarma said NRC application filed before the cut-off date mentioned in the CAA has been suggested as evidence.

�� electoral roll of 2011 can be a piece of evidence. A bank account opened with SBI in 2012 can be evidence. A matriculate certificate obtained from SEBA in 1975 can be one of the proofs. So your ARN number in NRC can also be proof. What we have said is that you need a very solid proof that you have come to India, or particularly to Assam, prior to (December 31) 2014. We have requested the Government of India that during the framing of the rule please ensure that no person of other religion can submit an affidavit saying that I am a Hindu. We need to safeguard against that. We need safeguard that the particular person has come prior to (December 31) 2014. If need be, there should be physical verification,� said the senior BJP leader.

Attack on AASU: Sarma took the opportunity to launch a scathing attack on the AASU and its leadership, as well as some alleged past actions of the students� body. �We welcome the announcement made by AASU�s president and secretary that they are going to form a political party. We will prove that people of Assam are with Narendra Modi and with the BJP,� he said.

Sarma added, �In 1985, some people signed the Assam Accord only to become ministers. This time also the same drama is getting repeated. People of Assam are now mature.�

Sarma said BJP is not worried about the prospect of the Congress extending support to a new party likely to be formed by AASU.

�The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had in 1979 offered 1966 as the base year. Why the then leadership of AASU did not accept it? The reason was that at that time, they (AASU leaders) had not attained the age of being eligible to contest elections. In 1985, they signed the Assam Accord with an even late cut-off date because by that time they were old enough to be eligible to contest elections,� said the NEDA convenor.

He claimed that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had offered AASU the Centre�s help to identify 70 lakh foreigners residing in Assam. �Why was that offer rejected? If that offer was rejected as part of the plan to form a new political party, then I am confident that people of Assam are now mature and will take an appropriate decision,� Sarma said.

Regarding the ongoing controversy over the cut-off date as mentioned in the Assam Accord, Sarma said, �Base year mentioned is 1966... By naturalisation 1966, by registration 1971. Why did they agree to NRC by 1971 naturalisation? ... Let them (AASU) say that sub-clauses 5.1 to 5.5 are not part of the Assam Accord... For long, people on TV talk shows were questioning us about how can we talk of Clause 6 without first talking of Clause 5. As I mentioned Clause 5 in the Assembly, the AASU is now talking only of sub-clause 5.6 without first referring to sub-clauses 5.1 to 5.5. Sub-clause 5.1 mentions that base year and date is 1966.�

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