NEW DELHI, July 21 - The Centre�s fresh attempt to accord citizenship to Bengali Hindu migrants has drawn sharp reaction with the Prabajan Virodhi Manch asking the Centre to insert a clause giving priority to the indigenous citizens over the newly granted citizens on all kinds of rights in Assam.
Senior advocate Upamanyu Hazarika, who heads the Manch pondered in a statement whether the Bangladeshi threat has now disappeared as the elections have been won. The silence of the elected representatives and the State government means that this is a battle they never intended to fight, he said.
In 1985, the Citizenship Act was amended to Assam�s detriment by giving citizenship to all migrants from East Pakistan up to 25 March 1971, when it is July 19, 1948 for the rest of India. A provision excluding citizenship rights in Assam and Northeast for the newly granted categories ought to have been inserted. The State government, by doing so, would have shown respect for the overwhelming mandate given to them by the people of Assam, he added.
Author of a report on �Problems of Illegal Migration from Bangladesh�, Hazarika was head of the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the Indo-Bangladesh boundary issue.
Referring to the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, Hazarika said that the most important feature is that the Government of India has given protection to minorities of other countries, giving them full citizenship rights. �But, what about the indigenous people and citizens in Assam, who are well on their way to becoming minorities? Does their plight deserve no attention?� he questioned. The priority of any government should be to first protect its own citizens who are already on their way to becoming minorities.
Six districts in 2001, nine in 2011 and two studies, based on population growth till 2001, say that the indigenous population of Assam will become minority by 2040 or 2047. Another recent study, based on 2011 Census, says that latest by 2061, indigenous people in 18 out of 27 districts will be minority and the entire Lower Assam, including Nagaon and Sonitpur, will have those of Bangladeshi origin in the majority.
Stating that it is for the State government to take steps to protect the indigenous people, more so when the mandate this time was to ensure that the indigenous people don�t become a minority, he said the BJP government has remained silent on Bangladeshi encroachment in most parts of Lower Assam, silent on all government benefits being given to encroachers and now silent on this issue, too.
All the governments in other northeastern States protect their own people from against Bangladeshis. Governments of Arunachal, Nagaland and Meghalaya throw them out, regardless of their political affiliation. The Manipur Assembly recently enacted a legislation unanimously reserving land and other benefits for only those who were citizens in 1951. All these States reserve resources only for local inhabitants and are thus saved from Bangladeshi aggression, Hazarika pointed out.