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BJP's North Eastern allies oppose 'controversial' Citizenship Bill in presence of Amit Shah

By Vishal S

Guwahati, Sep 09: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s allies from the North Eastern states on Monday strongly voiced their opposition to the controversial the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill at the fourth North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) conclave in Guwahati where Home Minister Amit Shah was also present.

Prominent leaders from the North Eastern states appealed to the Home Minister to consider the views of all the stakeholders and then arrive at a consensus rather than unilaterally taking a decision over a sensitive matter.

A file photo

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said the "highly controversial" Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will change the demography of the Northeast, if it is implemented by the Centre. Strongly opposing the bill in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Rio said all the Northeastern states had resolved earlier that they would not let the legislation affect the region.

[CMs of all NE states to protest if citizenship bill is brought again: Khandu]

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, popularly known as CAB, is a controversial Bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who had entered India due to religious persecution

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said that the Northeast has fears on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. He urged Shah to take all the States of the region into confidence before bringing in the legislation again.

The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on January 8 but it was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

"We believe it will change the demography of the North East. We need to understand the ground situation," Nagaland Chief Minister said. He hoped that Shah and the central government would "listen to us".

Rio also said that the negotiations on the Naga Peace accord were at an advanced stage. "We are hopeful of a solution very soon. We have also formed a joint legislation group," he added. Rio also sought support of all the states of the region to amicably settle the Nagaland issue as it was the "mother of all issues in the Northeast".

Sangma wondered whether the Centre will bypass discussions with the States before reintroducing the Bill.

Shah on his part said that the Centre's intention is to expel illegal immigrants from the entire country and not just Assam. He said Congress followed policy of divide and rule in the northeast.

"Congress alienated northeast from the rest of the country...Every state is an integral part of India, to spread this feeling at grass-root level it was important to make North-East 'Congress mukt'. Today, I am delighted that all 8 states of North-East are with NEDA," Shah said.

What exactly are North Eastern states opposing in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?

In August, a group of citizens from Assam voiced their opposition to a proposed bill to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act, seeking to grant citizenship to people from minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The minority communities from these countries comprise Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.

The group, including former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, said at a seminar here that these proposed amendments in the Citizenship Act, 1955, was against the basic structure of the Constitution.

[Citizenship Bill issue could make it hard for Sushmita Dev to retain Silchar]

While on the one hand there is absolute lack of will on the part of the central government to deport the foreign nationals, on the other hand the Centre is contemplating to amend the Citizenship Act to give citizenship to a large number of illegal immigrants belonging to a particular religion, the citizens from Assam said.

If the proposed amendments in the Citizenship Act is not withdrawn immediately, it will be a death knell for the indigenous people of Assam, they said.

It is an irony that when the people of the state is demanding detection and deportation of illegal migrants, the central government rather than doing that is trying to legalise the illegal migrants, the group of citizens said.

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