Rahul flags citizen bill

The bill is seen as a threat to the identity, culture and language of the people of the Northeast

By Damien Lepcha in Itanagar
  • Published 20.03.19, 12:11 AM
  • Updated 20.03.19, 12:11 AM
  • 4 mins read
  •  
Congress supporters at the rally in Itanagar on Tuesday. Damien Lepcha

AICC president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said introduction of the Citizen (Amendment) Bill, 2019, by the BJP was the biggest attack launched by the ruling party on the people of the Northeast and the Congress would never allow it to be passed by Parliament.

Without naming BJP president Amit Shah, who had recently declared at a rally in Assam that his party would re-introduce the bill in Parliament if it was re-elected to power, Rahul said there cannot be a bigger threat to the culture, language and people of the region.

The bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and entered the country till December 31, 2014, eligible for citizenship. The bill relaxes the 11 year mandatory stay in the country for citizenship by naturalisation to six years for such persons.

The bill is seen as a threat to the identity, culture and language of the people of the Northeast. Those opposed to the bill fear that it will turn the indigenous people into a minority in their own land.

The Congress, All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and several civil society groups have been at the forefront in opposing the bill.

As protest against the bill raged in Assam, before it fizzled out in the Rajya Sabha, Rahul had met AASU and KMSS delegates and intellectual Hiren Gohain and promised to oppose the bill in and outside Parliament.

“The bill is an attempt by the BJP to make the people of the Northeast weak, to destroy them. We have proved it and also made it clear that we will never allow the citizenship bill, no matter what, to be passed in Parliament,” he said while addressing a mammoth poll rally at the Indira Gandhi Park here on Tuesday.

“The moment I came to know that the people in the Northeast were scared about the bill, that it would threaten their identity, I decided to stop it in the Rajya Sabha,” he added.

During his poll campaign in Guwahati on February 26, Rahul had said, “When the BJP introduced the citizenship (amendment) bill, due to which the entire Northeast burnt, the Congress stood firm against it. Please remember that the Congress stood by the Northeast when it needed the most. The language, culture and history of Assam and all the states of India are very important for us because that is what makes this nation unique,” he said.

This was Rahul’s first visit to Arunachal as AICC president, PCC spokesperson Meena Toko said.

“The relationship the Congress shares with Arunachal and the rest of the Northeast is from the heart. We consider the language, history and culture of the region as our country’s strength. The nation is incomplete without it. We don’t believe in imposing a particular thought process on the nation as the BJP and RSS does. Most importantly, we do not want to suppress the voice of the citizens. The BJP and RSS are free to live their lives with their thought processes and ideologies but the Congress would never let them impose it in any other part of the country,” Rahul said.

Referring to the recent agitation here against the state government’s decision to grant permanent residence certificates to non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe residents that led to three deaths, Rahul said he had met the youths injured in firing during his recent visit to Assam.

“Is it necessary to shoot at your own people? Can’t the government talk to its own people? This is the kind of mindset the BJP has. If one does not listen to them, they tend to suppress them. They should understand that they cannot overpower the sentiments and bonding of the people of the country and the Northeast,” Rahul said.

Despite inclement weather, Rahul arrived at the Raj Bhawan helipad at 12.40pm from where he proceeded towards the rally venue. The rally began with the speakers and public observing a minute of silence to pay homage to the three youths killed in the anti-PRC protests. AICC general secretary and Arunachal Pradesh in-charge Luizinho Faleiro, AICC secretary Zenith Sangma and PCC Takam Sanjoy were there.

The Gandhi scion also hit out at the BJP over the Pulwama attack, Rafale deal, the chowkidar debate, GST and demonetisation.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who claims to be a patriot, was busy shooting a film at Jim Corbett National Park when the Pulwama attack killed 40 CRPF jawans in Kashmir on February 14. Rahul said he, on the other hand, cancelled all his appointments and programmes following the attack.

On the chowkidar debate, Rahul said Modi, who wanted to become a chowkidar instead of the Prime Minister in 2014, has stolen a lot from the country after being one.

“You (Modi) termed yourself a chowkidar and stole huge sums and now you say we all are chowkidars. You say this because you have been caught stealing Rs 30,000 crore,” Rahul said.

He alleged that the Prime Minister had opened the door of the Rafale deal to help Anil Ambani steal the sum. “Our UPA government under the leadership of Manmohan Singh had fixed the Rafale deal with France at Rs 526 crore. It was decided to give the contract to Hindustan Aeronautical Ltd having 70 years of experience in defence equipment business. But after Modi became the Prime Minister, he went to France and said I am the chowkidar of India and I will open the door of Rafale deal. He asked France to increase the price of fighter jets to Rs 1,600 crore, introduced Anil Ambani and asked the French company to pay Rs 30,000 crore to him.”

The Congress chief said Modi was acting as chowkidar of the country so that he could hand over all government contracts to 15 businessmen, including Ambani.

He also said that Modi was enjoying tea with China’s president Xi Jinping when Chinese troops entered India at Doklam in Arunachal Pradesh and “the Prime Minister wouldn’t utter a word”.

On GST, Rahul said his party would get rid of the “Gabbar Singh Tax” . There are five different tax slabs under GST but we will convert it into one if the Congress comes to power, he said. “Prime Minister Modi assured medium and small business owners that once GST is introduced, their lives would be made easier. At midnight, he introduced GST with full drama. Following this, the government took away the money which you had in your pockets,” he said. On demonetisation, Rahul said even a school-going child, who knows basic economy, would know that it was a big blunder by the Prime Minister.