The Telegraph
Saturday , March 18 , 2017

Debate on citizenship bill

H.D.R Lyngdoh in the Assembly on Friday. Picture by UB Photos

Shillong, March 17: Fear is gripping Meghalaya about the minority communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan finding their place in the hill state, if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is approved and implemented.

Raising the issue related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Assembly today, Opposition MLA of the Hill State People's Democratic Party (HSPDP) Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit sought to know if the Assam government has also conducted the National Register for Citizens (NRC) enrolment in areas falling within Meghalaya.

The Meghalaya minister for the general administration department, H.D.R. Lyngdoh, told the House that though NRC enrolment was conducted only in Assam, the Assam government had sent documents to the state to verify the details of persons for NRC enrolment.

Earlier the Assam government had sent thousands of documents to Meghalaya to verify the details of persons who might have stayed in areas under Meghalaya, during undivided Assam.

Basaiawmoit also sought to know whether Meghalaya was contemplating the implementation of the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which proposed granting Indian citizenship to persecuted Hindus in other countries.

Lyngdoh, however, denied this.

Basaiawmoit said the state government should not deal with such a serious issue in a casual way. He also asked chief minister Mukul Sangma to clarify on the NRC and on the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Sangma referred to the National Population Register (NPR) biometric enrolment for a proper record of certain categories of citizens who are part of the population.

"Now, before updating the NRC, we have to have the National Population Register. Once the latter is done, we will know the different categories of citizens. That is why it has become crucial. We are moving with utmost caution and commitment to dispel any apprehensions."

The NPR enrolment has completed just around 10 per cent in Meghalaya.

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

The objective of the bill is to amend Section 2 (b) of the Citizenship Act,1955, which states that "illegal migrant" means a foreigner who has entered India without a valid passport or other travel documents or with a valid passport or travel document, but remains therein beyond the permitted period of time.

A joint committee of parliamentarians is examining various issues related to the citizenship bill.

In Assam, various groups including the All Assam Students' Union are opposing the amendment bill.

The chief adviser to the Asom Andolan Sangrami Manch and AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta had earlier said the bill cannot be accepted as it would go against the spirit of the Assam Accord, which clearly stated that any illegal migrant who had come to Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971, would be deported irrespective of his or her religion.

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