NEW DELHI, April 2 - With less than 48 hours to go before the first phase of polls gets under way in Assam, the Hindu Bengalis have served an ultimatum to the Centre to resolve their problem, demanding introduction of a Bill granting citizenship rights to their community.
In what could be described as a pressure tactic, the All India Bangalee National Council (AIBNC), an organisation claiming to represent the community, said that they are having a rethink on supporting the BJP at the Assembly poll given the Centre�s flip-flop on the issue of granting them citizenship rights.
�These days, the present government�s policy has been to appease a certain community on one hand, and on the other it is terrorising the peace-loving Bengali Hindus. We want immediate solution to the six-decade-old citizenship crisis,� said president of the Council, Kishore Chatterjee, briefing newsmen after submitting a memorandum to the Prime Minister�s Office (PMO).
�The Government of India must pass a Bill for citizenship rights to Bengali Hindus. Justice delayed is justice denied,� said Chatterjee, adding that the recent notification in this regard was not enough.
Chatterjee said they are not satisfied with the Centre�s notification and they are not going to be swayed by mere assurances given by Union Ministers like Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj during their election rallies in the State over the last few days.
Asked which party the Hindu Bengalis are going to support in the polls, Chatterjee was evasive, merely stating that they would take a collective decision at the eleventh hour. The Hindu Bengalis might choose to remain neutral, too, he hinted.
�If the BJP does not support us, we will reject it,� Chatterjee threatened.
He claimed that Hindu Bengalis play a crucial role in at least 14-15 Assembly constituencies, including Tinsukia, Doomdooma, Mariani, Rangapara, Dhekiajuli, Goalpara (East) and Jonai, besides the three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Stating that the �D� voter issue remains unresolved, the president alleged that Hindu Bengalis continue to languish in detention centres in Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Silchar.
The Centre had on September 8 last issued an official notification, stating that it has decided, on humanitarian considerations, to exempt the persecuted minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan who had entered India on or before December 31, 2014, from the relevant provisions of rules and order made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and the Foreigners Act, 1946, in respect of their entry and stay in India, without such documents or after the expiry of those documents, as the case may be.
The notification, however, landed the State BJP in trouble, as it was seen as a violation of the provisions of the Assam Accord and it did not go down well with organisations like the All Assam Students� Union. In the face of the reservation of the State BJP leadership, the Centre put the issue in the cold storage.