Citizen bill new version in making: Himanta
North East Democratic Alliance (Neda) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday said the Centre is coming up with a new version of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which will address the grievances of the northeastern states.
Sarma’s comment came at a time when various organisations in the region have vowed to renew their protests if the Centre tabled the bill in Parliament. The region was a cauldron of protests last year against the contentious bill.
“Union home minister Amit Shah discussed the draft of the bill’s new version with the chief ministers and various organisations of the northeastern states,” Sarma said on the sidelines of a meeting of the health department here.
Asked whether the contents of the new version would be different from that of the original one passed in the Lok Sabha last year that triggered stiff opposition in the Northeast, the minister said, “Definitely. Shah said this time he extensively studied the issues concerning inner-line permit and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.”
Sarma said he would comment on the new version of the bill only after going through the draft.
Shah during his visit to Guwahati in September had assured the chief ministers that Article 371, which gives special powers to a few northeastern states, will not be impacted by the bill.
“The existing laws for protection of cultural and tribal identities will remain untouched even after the bill is introduced. No change will be made by the Centre that curb your rights,” Shah had said when the chief ministers of Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya expressed displeasure over the bill.
Sarma said Shah had talked to different organisations in the past two months to prepare the draft of the bill’s new version.
“The talks are on. I am sure it will not be the old bill. Preparations are afoot for the initiative,” he added.
On the oppositions to the earlier original bill that the Centre could not table in the Rajya Sabha, Sarma said, “There were negative reactions to the bill. But the BJP won the general elections.”
Despite strong anti-citizenship bill protests across the Northeast, the BJP registered a massive victory in the region in the elections this year, prompting many BJP leaders to see the polls as a referendum on the bill.
Sarma said the Centre knows well which ideas to be given importance from the many about the citizenship bill in the Northeast. “We will know whose sentiments were prioritised by the Centre once the draft of the bill’s new version is prepared,” he added.