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Torchlight processions taken out in Assam against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016

GUWAHATI: As many as 28 ethnic communities in Assam led by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) took out torchlight processions all over the districts in Brahmaputra Valley of Assam demanding the withdrawal of the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and asking the BJP-led government in the state to clarify its stand vis-à-vis the Bill.

The AASU adviser, Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharrya stated the agitation against the Bill would be relentless unless it was withdrawn by the Central government as it posed grave threat to the identity of indigenous communities in the state.

He said no political party or leaders supporting the Bill would be spared by the agitating indigenous communities.

The peace and social harmony in Assam has been put to the test of time with multi-directional polarization taking place amongst political, non-political and people’s groups over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 that has been proposed by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre and endorsed by the ruling BJP party in Assam notwithstanding the opposition from its ally Asom Gana Parishad.
With Assam government taking no official stand on the Bill unlike the neighbouring states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, the polarization in the society over the Bill is getting prominent day after day threatening the peace and harmony in the state .

The Centre is planning to change the definition of illegal migrants through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. It proposes to bring about changes to the existing Citizenship Act 1955, to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi or Christian. The Bill does not have a provision for Muslim sects such as the Shias and Ahmediyyas. The Shia and Ahmediyya communities in Pakistan have faced persecution.
The Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, also seeks to reduce the number of continuous years of stay in India needed to obtain citizenship by naturalisation from 11 to six years.

Meanwhile, the regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has threatened to part ways with the BJP if the Bill is passed as it believes that the Bill would alter the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people of the state.

The opposition parties including Congress has argued that the Bill would nullify the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is currently under way in Assam.

The NRC is being updated in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals who may have illegally entered the state after March 24, 1971. Following the NRC, anyone found to have entered Assam illegally after March 24, 1971, irrespective of their religion, will be deported.
While the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees persecuted in neighbouring countries, the NRC is not designed to classify migrants on the basis of their religion. Hence, if the Bill becomes an Act, non-Muslims found to have entered Assam after March 24, 1971 need not go through the deportation process, thereby nullifying the NRC process.


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