Assamese public protests ‘communal’ Citizenship Amendment Bill

Assamese public protests ‘communal’ Citizenship Amendment Bill

Guwahati: Hundreds of people under the joint leadership of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Sadou Asam Karmachari Parishad (SAKP)  marched to Raj Bhawan (June 6) and submitted a memorandum to the Governor demanding immediate scrapping of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The procession of over a thousand people started from the AASU’s Swahid Nyas office at Uzanbazar at 11-30 am and marched to Raj Bhawan, shouting slogans and displaying placards against the Bill.
The memorandum addressed to Governor Prof. Jagdish Mukhi was presented through a Circle Officer who received the delegation at the Raj Bhawan gate.

The protesters included AASU president Dipanka Nath, general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi, adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya, SAKP president Basab Kalita, among others.

“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a threat to the very identity and honourable existence of the Assamese people, and the Centre must scrap it at the earliest. The people have presented an uncompromising and unambiguous stand on the issue and that must be honoured by the Centre,” AASU president Dipanka Nath said.

Assam government employees were part of the procession demanding that the Centre scrap the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The state government employees and All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), under the banner of the Sodou Asam Karmachari Parishad, marched to Raj Bhavan, protesting against the bill that has evoked widespread protests in the state.

The bill, which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to certain religious communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been alleged to be a move to legitimise the Bangladeshi Hindus who entered Assam after 1971 illegally.

It is also seen as a violation of the Assam Accord, which had set March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for detection and deportation of foreigners irrespective of religion from the state.

The Parishad held a meeting with AASU on the bill here last month and expressed its opposition to the bill. This is the first time that they have protested openly against it. It had been reluctant to make any move before May 31, the last day of verification of documents for the update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in which around 45,000 of its employees had been engaged.

“As the employees are now free from the updating exercise we have joined hands with AASU to protest against the bill,” said an employee.

The two organisations also submitted a joint memorandum to Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi.

In the memorandum, they also opposed the Foreigners (Amendment) Order 2015 and Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules 2015.

“We oppose the bill. We shall do anything to oppose any settlement of the post-1971 Bangladeshis in Assam at any point of time on any excuse,” the memorandum said.

“It should not be forgotten that Assam accepted the burden (of foreigners) without making a distinction on the basis of religion. There must not be any distinction on the basis of religion to deport the post-1971 foreigners as promised in the Assam Accord. The people of Assam upheld the principle of secularism while signing the Accord. We have accepted a burden more than we can endure,” it said.

“We will remain committed to secularism. The history of Assam is woven around the idea of secularism. Our composite culture values secularism. We cannot be a party to anything which destroys secularism of our society. The proposed bill is highly biased,” it added.

“The Assam Accord has been largely accepted as the valid document for detection and deportation of the illegal migrants and it does not discriminate on the basis of the religious affiliation of the migrants. It must be honoured in its letter and spirit,” Nath said.

The agitators demanded implementation of the Assam Accord in its entirety, including provisions for constitutional safeguards for the Assamese people. Sealing of the porous Indo-Bangladesh border and urgent steps for detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants were among the demands.

The agitators also called for the repeal of the related government notification and the passport order as well.

“The opposition to the Hindu Bangladeshi migrants is justified, as the Assamese populace would be rendered minorities in their homeland once the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill becomes an Act. This will negate the political and socio-cultural rights of the Assamese and cause their complete marginalization. This can never be acceptable. Our motherland is above our government jobs,” SAKP president Basab Kalita said.

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