The Telegraph
Wednesday , October 19 , 2016
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Consensus bid against citizenship bill

- Forum to meet all parties in Delhi

Prafulla Kumar Mahanta addresses a news conference in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Oct. 18: The Asom Andolan Sangrami Manch, a forum of leaders who took part in the Assam Agitation, will visit Delhi soon to build a political consensus against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The bill aims to grant Indian citizenship to minority communities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who had entered India illegally to escape religious persecution, even if they do not provide the required documents.

The chief adviser of the Manch and AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, today said the delegation would meet leaders of all political parties, including the BJP, to create a political consensus against the bill since it is detrimental to the interest of the indigenous people of the state and will put their identity under threat.

"We will request all political parties not to support the bill in Parliament as it violates the Assam Accord, which clearly says that any illegal migrant who had come to the state after the midnight of March 24, 1971 will be deported irrespective of his or her religion," said Mahanta, who was one of the signatories to the Accord.

The six-year-long Assam Agitation had ended with the signing of the Assam Accord on Independence Day in 1985.

"This bill, if passed in Parliament, will negate the very purpose of the Assam Accord," Mahanta said.

The Narendra Modi government had introduced the contentious bill in Parliament in July this year. Last month, it was referred to a joint parliamentary committee of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha under the chairmanship of Satyapal Singh for examination and presenting a report to Parliament.

AASU activists shout slogans during a rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos

The Manch has already submitted a written representation before the parliamentary committee expressing their opposition to the bill.

Mahanta appealed to all like-minded organisations and intellectuals of the state, including the All Assam Students' Union, to launch a joint agitation to force the Centre to withdraw the bill since Assam would have to bear the maximum burden of illegal migrants, especially Hindu migrants, from Bangladesh.

"The minority population of Bangladesh is 1.3 crore and if all of them come to Assam after the bill is passed then one can easily imagine what will happen to the indigenous people of the state. We can't allow Assam to be used as a dumping ground for illegal migrants from Bangladesh," he said.

Mahanta said nowhere in the world, except Israel, is citizenship granted on the basis of religion. In Israel, any Jew can receive immediate citizenship.

Chief convener of the Manch Kumar Dipak Das said they had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in Gauhati High Court against the bill a couple of months ago, seeking total implementation of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit.

On former chief minister and Congress MLA Tarun Gogoi opposing the bill, Mahanta accused him of taking a U-turn on this issue.

"When he was the chief minister, Gogoi had advocated granting Indian citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh and now when he is in the Opposition he is opposing the same, which creates doubt about his sincerity on this issue," Mahanta said.

"If the Congress is really opposed to the bill then their MPs, who are members of the joint parliamentary committee, should raise their voices against the bill," Das said.

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