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Assam: Congress opposes amendment to Citizenship Act seeking to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants

The Joint Parliamentary Commission (JPC) on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 began its hearing in Assam on Monday amid protests over the BJP government’s alleged attempt to make the northeastern state a “dumping ground for Bangladeshi Hindus”. While certain Assamese sections are staunchly opposing the Bill, Bengalis are lending strong support to it.

The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship. The Congress party has issued a statement against the proposed amendment which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus and other non-Muslim migrants from the three countries.

In a memorandum signed by Bora, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, opposition leader Debabrata Saikia and other senior leaders, the Congress said, “The State had already passed a turbulent period between 1979 to 1985 when there was a mass movement against illegal migrants in which many people got martyred. This new Bill will endanger the cultural, political and social identity of Assam.”

Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that Assam will no more bear the burden of outsiders. Assam state Congress chief Ripun Bora, said, “We will not allow dilution of the Assam accord inked in 1985 by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. We will oppose the bill in Parliament and if required will move the Supreme Court against the bill.”

Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) founder Akhil Gogoi told the media at the venue of the JPC hearing, “The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a threat to the very identity and existence of the people of Assam. It also negates the secular tenets of the Constitution of India and hence can neither be acceptable nor legally tenable. In no way can religion be the basis of citizenship and the Constitution is specific about that. The Bill is unconstitutional.”

The JPC is expected to meet more than 200 organizations during its visit to Bengali dominated Barak district on Tuesday. Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal stated, “The JPC will take a decision only after weighing divergent views.”

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