In the face of vehement protests in Assam and other northeastern states against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, optimism reigns in Barak Valley that it will be implemented.
The bill, which got the Union cabinet’s nod on Wednesday and is set to be tabled in Parliament next week, aims to grant citizenship to Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Buddhists who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.
While the All Assam Students Union, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, North East Students’ Organisation, Mizo Zirlai Pawl, Nagaland Students’ Federation, All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union and Khasi Students’ Union, among others, are staunchly opposing the bill, some Bengali-dominated Barak Valley organisations are backing it. All Assam Bengali Hindu Association president Basudeb Sharma said on Wednesday, “The government has discussed the issue repeatedly with different stakeholders and is trying to convince them about the bill’s implementation. The bill will come into effect and Hindus will be given security.”
The founder-president of All Cachar Karimganj Hailakandi Students’ Association, Pradip Dutta Roy, said victims of religious persecution in neighbouring countries, especially Bengali Hindus, would get a secure and permanent shelter in this country after the bill is implemented.
Subhranshu Sekhar Bhattacharya, a member of the North East Linguistic and Ethnic Co-Ordination Committee, said anti-bill organisations can certainly express their views through protests but they cannot change the decision of the lawmakers.
Kishore Bhattacharjee, a member of Citizens’ Rights Protection Co-Ordination Committee, said a section of aggressive Assamese elements were orchestrating the protests against the bill. Barak Upatyaka Banga Sahitya O Sanskritik Sammelan general secretary Gautam Prasad Dutta suspected that the anti-bill protests were backed by “chauvinistic intellectual and political forces”.
The Barak Valley-based Assam Indigenous People’s Protection Forum, however, reiterated that it would continue to oppose the bill. Its general secretary Seram Herajit Singh said the Centre was pushing the bill “forcefully” without caring about the indigenous communities of the Northeast.