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'No need to worry': Will Centre’s assurance on citizenship bill help calm frayed nerves in Assam?

By oneindia staff

Guwahati, May 31: In the last few weeks, Assam has witnessed massive protests across its length and breadth over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which the Narendra Modi government at the Centre is hell-bent on enacting.

Amid row over the bill, Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said the people of Assam should not be apprehensive about the proposed law and any future step would be taken only after consultations with all stakeholders. The message was conveyed to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal by the home minister at a meeting in the national capital where the issue was discussed.

 Large-scale protests took place across Assam against the bill

"The home minister said that there should be no apprehension in minds of the people of Assam about the citizenship amendment bill. The home minister has assured that before taking any step, the people of Assam will be taken into confidence. All stakeholders will be consulted," he told reporters.

Assam has been witnessing protests against the central government's move to enact the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India due to religious persecution in those countries.

Organisations spearheading the protests said that the bill, if passed, would pave the way for giving citizenship to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam. Sonowal also said all efforts would be made to address the concerns of people of Assam in this regard.

He requested the home minister to set up a committee to make recommendations for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord which provides for constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.

"The home minister assured the chief minister that a committee will be set up at the earliest in consultation with the state government," a home ministry statement said.

The meeting discussed various administrative and security arrangements related to the updation exercise of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as per the orders of the Supreme Court. The meeting discussed the arrangements required to dispose of claims and objections after publication of the next draft NRC on June 30, the statement said.

It was emphasised that an adequate opportunity must be given to people in this regard and necessary arrangements be made to avoid any inconvenience to public. It should be ensured that claims and objections are disposed of as per law, and in a proper manner.

It was also emphasised that a strong information education and communication campaign might be launched to inform people about the process of filing claims and objections after publication of final draft NRC, it said. A massive exercise to update the NRC was being carried out in Assam following a directive of the Supreme Court in 2005.

A total of 3.29 crore people applied for inclusion in the NRC. In the first list, 1.9 crore names were included.

The ongoing protest over the citizenship bill is the first major crisis of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Assam which came to power two years ago.

Those who are protesting against the controversial bill said that the whole exercise of the BJP government (both at the Centre and in the state) was to further propagate Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra concept in Assam at the cost of indigenous people.

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