NEW DELHI, April 17 - Opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, at least 16 ethnic and tribal organisations today warned that the government should be prepared to face a vigorous agitation if the Bill is not withdrawn.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 resumed its hearing here today with over 20 organisations making their submissions. It has been learnt that over 16 organisations, most of them ethnic and tribal organisations, including one from Tripura, opposed the Bill, while at least five organisations spoke in favour of the Bill.
Meanwhile, it has been decided that the JPC would be visiting Assam from May 7 to 11. The panel will also tour Meghalaya and Tripura, a member of the JPC said.
The most interesting aspect of the hearing today was the submission of the Sattra Mahasabha, which supported the Bill. The two-member delegation led by Kusum Kumar Mahanta, when asked by a JPC member whether it was the view of the organisation, said the Mahasabha had discussed the matter and finalised its stand.
When contacted by this newspaper, Mahanta said that the Sattra Mahasabha did not take any stand on the Bill and instead mentioned about the need to safeguard the sattras. He said that they have submitted a 14-point memorandum to the JPC wherein they have said that the Rs 400-crore grant promised by the then Vajpayee government has been kept pending as only Rs 100 crore has been released.
Later, briefing newsmen, All Assam Tribal Sangha general secretary Aditya Khaklari and All Bodo Students Union president Pramod Boro, accompanied by representatives of 14 other ethnic and tribal groups, said they have opposed the proposal to grant citizenship to Hindu Bengalis.
Since the signing of the Assam Accord, all successive State and Central governments have failed to implement the clauses of the Accord. Instead of deporting the post-1971 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the Centre has now proposed to offer citizenship to post-1971 Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.
The proposed Bill violates the very idea of secularism as incorporated in the Constitution and Bangladeshis, the illegal immigrants, must not be differentiated on the basis of religion, they said, adding, all the post-1971 illegal immigrants irrespective of their religion must be expelled as per the Assam Accord.
They alleged that it is the conspiracy of the NDA government to harm the ethnic communities. Citizenship on the basis of religion is unacceptable and it must be withdrawn because it is a diabolical gameplan of the Centre to destroy the tribal communities, they said, adding, the Centre must be ready to face a massive movement if it passes the Bill.
The communities also faced questions from the JPC, as chairman Rajendra Agrawal asked whether they would accept those Rabha tribals, who have fled Bangladesh to Assam just as the Hindu Bengalis had fled the neighbouring country. Representative of the All Assam Rabha Students Union said that they have no information about persecution of their fellow tribesmen in Bangladesh.
ABSU president Pramod Boro said the BJP-led NDA government was looking for political benefits by bringing the Bill. The government should clarify whether they are also bringing over 2.50 crore Hindus living in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Stating that the Assam Accord was the cornerstone, Boro suggested that the Government of India should talk to all ethnic groups of the Northeast and the JPC should visit all the northeastern states. �The Government of India has to decide whether they want to work for the ethnic people of the Northeast or the infiltrators,� he said.
Meanwhile, All Assam Students Union adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said that Assam cannot be a dumping ground of illegal migrants and all ethnic groups of the State would rise as one against the Bill. �The Government of Assam and the Government of India should be ready to face the consequences,� Bhattacharya warned.
On the other hand, three Bengali outfits and a Nepali organisation supported the Bill underlining the need to safeguard their interest. The All Assam Bengali Youth Students Federation said that it is the duty of the government to give citizenship to Hindu Bengalis.