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Barak group campaigns for citizen bill

Members of the association during the signature campaign in Silchar on Tuesday. Picture by Swapnaneel Bhattacharjee

Silchar: The All Assam Bengali Hindu Association started a signature campaign here on Tuesday in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha in July 2016, aims to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India till December 31, 2014.

The association's members and local citizens converged in large numbers in front of the Cachar deputy commissioner's office here at 11.30am and raised slogans, demanding implementation of the bill.

Former Union minister Kabindra Purkayastha of the BJP, who signed first, initiating the campaign officially, said the government was committed to provide citizenship to persecuted migrants and hoped the bill would be implemented soon.

Assam BJP spokesperson Rajdeep Roy echoed Purkayastha and said the government would provide citizenship to those coming to this country following religious persecution. It may take some time but the bill will be implemented, he said.

Basudeb Sharma, president of the association, said the month-long campaign would be conducted across the Barak Valley and a report would be sent to the joint parliamentary committee which is reviewing the bill. He said he hopes to collect at least one to two lakh signatures in support of the bill.

"People in this part of Assam wholeheartedly want the bill to be implemented. We are optimistic about getting a good response," he added.

Dharmananda Deb, adviser to the association, said the government should think about the persecuted migrants and implement the bill at the earliest. He also said the Supreme Court, which is supervising the National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process in Assam, should have made it clear what would happen to people whose names are missing from the NRC. "This could have made the matter much transparent," he added.

The campaign collected more than 1,098 signatures on Tuesday.

Other members of the association, including Santanu Sutradhar, Santanu Roy and Rajib Nath, were also present.

Angshuman Bhattacharjee, media convener to the North East Linguistic and Ethnic Co-Ordination Committee, said they too would soon start a signature campaign.

He said their delegates would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah in New Delhi soon to express support for the bill.

A 20-member delegation had met home minister Rajnath Singh last month.

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