Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Row over citizenship bill in Meghalaya

Pro-talks Ulfa leader Anup Chetia joins a protest in Shillong Pro-talks Ulfa leader Anup Chetia joins a protest in Shillong
Frank Williams | 14 May, 2018, 04:53

Guwahati: The Astitya Raksha Samannay Samiti, Assam, an umbrella body of 289 organisations, on Saturday announced a series of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Bill, 2016 that the Centre has proposed seeks to make Hindus, Jains, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan eligible for Indian citizenship and bring down the residency period for eligibility from 11 years to six years - a contentious move in a region haunted by the spectre of the Bangladeshi migrant for decades.

The BJP backing the Bill has put chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal too in a Catch-22 situation. "We, rather, demand that the government should implement ILP system in all the NE states so that our indigenous people are safeguarded", said NESO chairman Samuel B Jyrwa.

The 16-member JPC headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal had visited the state from May 7 to May 9 to elicit views from stakeholders on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.

"It's enough. We the people of the Northeast have suffered a lot in the hand of the central government. Our country is secular, you can not divide it on religious lines", said AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Mahanta. "We will not take any decision that goes against the people of Assam.

It was due to his efforts that saw the IMDT (Illegal Migrants' Determination Tribunal) Act, which made detection of immigrants hard, being struck down (by the Supreme Court)", Patowary said while appealing to the people to have faith on the government.

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

"This time, people have been given top priority", he said. "The people should, however, continue to express their opinion and speak their mind to the JPC chairman through e-mail", he said.

Earlier in the day, the members of the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People and pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-P) staged a peaceful rally in the city to protest against the proposed Bill.

The Accord states that all illegal foreigners from Bangladesh who had settled in Assam after March 25, 1971 would have to be deported irrespective of religion.

The stand of the Congr-ess against the bill has created a further embarrassment for the party as Mr Gogoi as chief minister until 2016 advocated asylum to Hindus and other minorities facing religious persecution in Bangladesh.

In the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley, most of the 315 points of feedback given to the parliamentary committee were in favour of the bill, news agency Press Trust of India reported. "The JPC has not taken any decision as the hearings are not yet over".

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