Assam people's interests will not be harmed by Citizenship Amendment Bill: Government

GUWAHATI: The Assam government today assured the people of the state that their interests would not be harmed by the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, and appealed to them to maintain calm.

There is no reason for the people of Assam to panic as it was Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal who had insisted that a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) visit the state and listen to the views of the people, senior minister and government spokesman Chandramohan Patowary said.

"Have faith in the state government and the chief minister as he will ensure that no harm is caused to the interests of the people," he told reporters here.

A 16-member JPC headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal had visited the state for three days since May 7 to inculcate opinions of organisations and individuals on the Bill.

Several organisations and citizens took out a procession to voice their concern against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, saying it would breach the clauses of the Assam Accord that states that all illegal foreigners who came to Assam after 1971 from Bangladesh, irrespective of their religion, have to be deported.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants belonging to six communities -- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians -- eligible for Indian citizenship after six years of residence in the country.

Patowary alleged the situation is being politicised by some quarters and it was uncalled for.

"The JPC has not taken any decision or submitted their recommendation but only visited the state to take the opinion and views of different sections of people and organisation," Patowary, also the industry minister, said.

It was Sonowal who had gone to the Supreme Court much before he became the chief minister to get the IMDT Act scrapped as it was not much successful, the minister said.

The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal ) (IMDT) Act was enacted in 1983 to detect and deport illegal foreigners from Assam. The Act was struck down by the apex court in 2005.

Patowary said the major challenge before the state currently is to ensure that a flawless updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) is presented before May 31, the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

"We want a correct NRC, which is being updated under the directives of the Supreme Court, to protect the identity of the Assamese people," he said.

The NRC is being prepared to identify illegal migrants in Assam and its first draft has been published on December 31 last year.

Asked if the Assam cabinet would reject the Bill as the Meghalaya government had done, the minister said, "We are not in a position to do so as the process of NRC was on."

"The JPC has also not asked for our opinion. We will let the people of the state know about our opinion only after the NRC process is completed," he added.

The minister criticised the opposition Congress saying its leaders and members adopting different stands in Brahmaputra valley and Barak Valley.

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