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Minorities strike back in Assam

Guwahati, July 22: Minority MLAs, ministers and MPs from the ruling Congress in Assam have decided to seek amendment to the Foreigners Act, 1946, to ensure that those hailing from religious and linguistics minority groups are not harassed in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act.

An announcement to this effect was made by Assam agriculture minister Wajed Ali Choudhury at the Janata Bhawan this afternoon after the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind leaders sought the resignation of all Congress MLAs and MPs from the minority community.

It announced that it is seriously thinking about floating a new party to safeguard the interests of the minorities.

Congress MP Anowar Hussain and MLAs Shadid Hussain, Hoshan Ara Islam, Samsul Haque, Aftabuddin Malah and Dildar Raja were also present on the occasion.

However, there was no one from the linguistic minority.

The agriculture minister claimed that their demand was backed by chief minister Tarun Gogoi, whom he had met yesterday to know the stand of the government following criticism that the ruling Congress had not done enough to retain the act.

Choudhury, however, said, 'We know that our government had taken all possible steps including filing an affidavit and engaging leading lawyers to retain the act.

Even after it was repealed a team of minority leaders, headed by Bhumidhar Barman, went to Delhi and met the home minister, law minister, defence minister and Sonia Gandhi to apprise them of the problems. They have assured us that they will do whatever is possible. We will continue to make this demand.'

That the Congress was not averse to amendments to the Foreigners Act became clear when Union minister of state for heavy industries Santosh Mohan Dev said in Silchar this morning that the Centre was not in favour of a new legislation.

But the group of ministers set up to study the said act would suggest amendments if required to safeguard the interests of the minorities.

Dev also said that the Pradesh Congress Coordination Committee which met in Guwahati today discussed the IM(DT) issue.

Choudhury blasted the United Minorities Front, the Jamiat and Congress MP Golam Osmani for allegedly misleading the community for political gains.

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