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Assam minister terms bandh call against Citizenship Bill illegal

From Our Correspondent

GUWAHATI: Even as forty-four organisations led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) in Assam have called for 12-hour dawn-to-dusk statewide bandh on October 23 in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, Assam’s senior minister Himanta Bishwa Sarma termed the bandh ‘illegal’ in light of the standing Gauhati High Order against such bandh calls.
The bandh has also been called against the proposed mass rally on November 17 organised by organisations representing Bengali Hindus in the state in support of the Citizenship Bill.
The minister said that complying with such bandhs by anyone including government employees, businessmen or the media would amount to contempt of court.
The minister further informed that in view of adverse intelligence reports, the state government would not allow holding of the proposed mass rally being organised on November 17 by organisations representing Bengali Hindus in the state in support of the Citizenship Bill.
The decision to call for statewide bandh on October 23 was taken in a meeting of 44 indigenous people’s organisations held here on Saturday under the aegis of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP).
The KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi said it was the first time a statewide bandh had been called under the leadership of KMSS in view of the grave threat posed to the identity of indigenous communities because of the BJP-led Central government’s move to enact the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.
The KMSS leader further demanded that the state government must not give permission for the proposed mass rally planned by Bengali Hindu organisations on November 17 in the state in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The KMSS set November 1 deadline for the state government for the purpose. Gogoi also called upon all Bengali-speaking people who had come to Assam before March 24, 1971 as they are already considered Indian citizens as per the Assam Accord.
The KMSS leader vowed to disrupt all modes of communication during the bandh hours on October 23 and called upon the people of the state not to ply private vehicles during the bandh period.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 proposes to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who came to India before December 31, 2014, eligible for citizenship.
This has created panic in Assam where illegal migration from Bangladesh is a burning issue and indigenous communities are fearing that enactment of the bill would reduce them to a minority in the state.
Under the act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.
The bill relaxes this 11 year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.
The bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.
The bill faces criticism because it proposes to make illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.

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