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Assam Comes Together to Oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

06 Jan,2022 11:59 AM, by: Super Admin
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Assam and the Matter of Citizenship. The initiative undertaken by the present government of Assam to build a national register of authentic citizens of the state and trace out the names of illegal migrants, thereby bringing an end to  many of Assam’s long prevailing socio-economic problems, has been seen as a welcome move by  people. In the midst of this, the news of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 being applied has raised several questions and sparked off much skepticism amongst the people.

Giving voice to the common man’s dilemma, many organizations have strongly voiced their disfavor against this proposed amendment and made the decision to boycott it completely.  They have also vowed to make all attempts to oppose implementation of the same for the larger welfare of the Assamese identity.

What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016?

In its most simplistic understanding, the citizenship (amendment) Bill, 2016 provides eligibility of citizenship, to 6 minority communities: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from three countries i.e Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who had entered the country illegally in order to escape religious persecution, even if they do not provide the required documents.

Joint Parliamentary Committee Visits Assam

The Joint Parliamentary Committee, headed by Lok Sabha Member, Rajendra Agrawal and including 4 MPs from Assam – Ramen Deka, Bhubaneshwar Kalita, Sushmita Dev and Kamakhya Tasa are on a 3-day visit to Assam from May 7 – May 9. The purpose of the visit is to have a discussion with different organizations and hear their views and suggestions on matters relating to various aspects of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The arrival of the JPC group is intended to allow the common man to voice their opinion without any agenda being prioritized

Assam’s Voice of Dissent

A unanimous voice of dissent emerged from the public on the first day of the JPC meeting at the Administrative Staff College, Khanapara. A collective memorandum of rejection of the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the state was submitted by political parties, representatives of various organizations of Assam (minorities, ethnic communities etc) and local people who had participated in the public hearing of the JPC regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 for the Brahmaputra Valley.

A Symposium of Dissent

More and more people continued to arrive at the Administrative Staff College, Khanapara to voice their contention against the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

A symposium of dissent comprising of some prominent names such as Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Congress, All India United Democratic Fund (AIUDF), All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Asam Sahitya Sabha, All Assam Lawyers’ Association, All Tai Ahom Students’ Union, All Assam Matak Yuva Chatra Parishad, Muslim Students’ Union, Forum Against Citizenship Amendment Bill, Khilonjiya Mancha – led by Ulfa (pro-talks) leader Anup Chetia, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Assam Senior Citizens’ Association, Kaziranga Wildlife Society, Prabrajan Virodhi Manch, Samahar Natya Gosthee, current Leader of Opposition – Debabrata Saikia, renowned film personality Prastuti Parashar and others were present at the hearing.

The All Assam Lawyers’ Association pointed out several critical facts about the legal limitations & Constitutional obligations facing the amendment of the Citizenship Act, and stressed on the need for elaborate discussions regarding the same. The committee assured the All Assam Lawyers’ Association that they will be called to New Delhi for further discussions.

The Issues Raised

Crucial questions were raised before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the first day of the hearing in Guwahati. The following were some of the issues related to the amendment of the Citizenship Act that was presented before the committee:

  • Threat to Secular Nature of the Constitution of India
  • Escalation of Assam’s Socio-Economic Crisis
  • Threat to Assam’s Identity, Demographics & Environment
  • Future of Indigenous Communities at Stake
  • Display of Bias:
  • Allotment of 1 day for Brahmaputra Valley and 2 days for Barak Valley
  • Non inclusion of Significant Regions/Districts in the Hearing Process
  • Violation of the Main Clause of the Assam Accord
  • Threat of Separatist Sentiment and Communal Tension
  • Legal limitations

Decision beyond Emotions

Assam has borne the brunt of sheltering refugees for decades. While other North Eastern states have stringent laws regarding outsiders such as Inner Line Permit, legal prohibitions on purchase of land by people outside the community and so on, no such provision has been provided for Assam.  Additionally, the continuing influx of illegal immigrants has given rise to many socio-economic problems which are being seen as an impending threat to the future of Assam. An expansion in their population vis a vis the overall population demographics of Assam, increase in criminal activities, citizenship by birth for the descendants of immigrants, shortage of land and subsequent problems are issues that have further escalated public outrage.

People need to raise their voice, not their anger. Assam at this moment is looking forward to solutions based on discussions and decisions made outside the ambit of emotions. People wish to avoid the recurrence of any repetition of any kind of violence from the past.  Thus, it is highly necessary that everyone deliberates over the matter with calmness and refrains from propaganda, violence and trivializing of the matter at all levels.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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