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Citizenship Bill likely to be put on hold

By R Dutta Choudhury
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GUWAHATI, Dec 24 - The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which aims to provide citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis, who came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan due to religious persecution in their own countries, may be put on hold for some time and finally the Government will have to take a political decision as to when it can try to pass the Bill in the Parliament.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that as a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has already been formed to examine the Bill, it would be difficult for the Government to try and pass the Bill in the Parliament without receiving the report of the Committee. The Government is also not very sure whether passing of the Bill would complicate the situation, particularly in Assam.

Sources pointed out that the JPC had meetings with the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and several other political parties and organizations. But the Committee could not complete its job after its chairman Satyapal Singh was inducted into the Union Ministry. A new chairman of the JPC is yet to appointed because of which the JPC is not functioning now.

The AASU, in its presentation before the JPC, strongly opposed the move to grant citizenship to the Hindu migrants from Bangladesh. The students' body is clear on it stand that all illegal migrants, who came to the State after the midnight of March 24, 1971, should be detected and deported irrespective of their religion. The AASU also said that Assam has already taken the burden of foreigners who came to the country before the midnight of March 24, 1971 and asserted that the State would not be allowed to be used as a dumping ground of foreign nationals. The students' body also called upon the JPC to hold talks with different ethnic groups of the State before finalizing its report.

Though a visit of the JPC to the State to meet different organizations was planned, it was postponed at the last minute and with the induction of the JPC chairman Satyapal Singh in the Union Ministry and the activities of the Committee remained suspended. Official sources pointed out that normally when a JPC is formed to review a Bill, it is not passed in the Parliament till the committee submits its final report and under the circumstances, the Bill may be put on the hold, at least for some time.

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an alliance partner of the BJP in the State, has also strongly opposed the Bill and threatened to pull out of the alliance if the Bill is passed.

Meanwhile, official sources admitted that till date, no survey has been conducted to find out the number of Hindu Bangladeshi migrants staying in Assam as most of them came illegally unlike in the western part of the country, where some people came from Pakistan and Afghanistan with legal documents and later sought citizenship of India claiming that they were facing religious persecution in their own country. "The Government agencies know the number of such people, who came from Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the situation is different in Assam and West Bengal where no one knows how many people came from Bangladesh. After the publication of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Government will have an assessment of such numbers in Assam," sources added.

Sources also admitted that because of strong reaction against the Bill in Assam, the ruling party would have to take a political decision on the issue. However, till date, there has been no such reaction in West Bengal, while, the situation is not so complicated in the states like Rajasthan, Punjab, etc., as the number of people seeking Indian citizenship is not as much as in Assam and West Bengal.

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Citizenship Bill likely to be put on hold

GUWAHATI, Dec 24 - The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which aims to provide citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis, who came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan due to religious persecution in their own countries, may be put on hold for some time and finally the Government will have to take a political decision as to when it can try to pass the Bill in the Parliament.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that as a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has already been formed to examine the Bill, it would be difficult for the Government to try and pass the Bill in the Parliament without receiving the report of the Committee. The Government is also not very sure whether passing of the Bill would complicate the situation, particularly in Assam.

Sources pointed out that the JPC had meetings with the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and several other political parties and organizations. But the Committee could not complete its job after its chairman Satyapal Singh was inducted into the Union Ministry. A new chairman of the JPC is yet to appointed because of which the JPC is not functioning now.

The AASU, in its presentation before the JPC, strongly opposed the move to grant citizenship to the Hindu migrants from Bangladesh. The students' body is clear on it stand that all illegal migrants, who came to the State after the midnight of March 24, 1971, should be detected and deported irrespective of their religion. The AASU also said that Assam has already taken the burden of foreigners who came to the country before the midnight of March 24, 1971 and asserted that the State would not be allowed to be used as a dumping ground of foreign nationals. The students' body also called upon the JPC to hold talks with different ethnic groups of the State before finalizing its report.

Though a visit of the JPC to the State to meet different organizations was planned, it was postponed at the last minute and with the induction of the JPC chairman Satyapal Singh in the Union Ministry and the activities of the Committee remained suspended. Official sources pointed out that normally when a JPC is formed to review a Bill, it is not passed in the Parliament till the committee submits its final report and under the circumstances, the Bill may be put on the hold, at least for some time.

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an alliance partner of the BJP in the State, has also strongly opposed the Bill and threatened to pull out of the alliance if the Bill is passed.

Meanwhile, official sources admitted that till date, no survey has been conducted to find out the number of Hindu Bangladeshi migrants staying in Assam as most of them came illegally unlike in the western part of the country, where some people came from Pakistan and Afghanistan with legal documents and later sought citizenship of India claiming that they were facing religious persecution in their own country. "The Government agencies know the number of such people, who came from Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the situation is different in Assam and West Bengal where no one knows how many people came from Bangladesh. After the publication of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Government will have an assessment of such numbers in Assam," sources added.

Sources also admitted that because of strong reaction against the Bill in Assam, the ruling party would have to take a political decision on the issue. However, till date, there has been no such reaction in West Bengal, while, the situation is not so complicated in the states like Rajasthan, Punjab, etc., as the number of people seeking Indian citizenship is not as much as in Assam and West Bengal.