Opposing Centre’s move to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants, prominent citizens and academicians here today said it would jeopardise peace and progress in Assam and the entire Northeast.
Scholars like Hiren Gohain, Udayaditya Bharali, Apurba Barua, Dinesh Baishya, Manorama Sharma, Manjit Mahanta, Akhil Ranjan Dutta and Kiran Gogoi "expressed a sense of shock and anguish at the proposed 2016 amendment of the Citizenship Act 1955" through a joint release.
The Amendment Bill is currently under consideration of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament.
"March 24, 1971 has been accepted after a tumultuous period of resistance and opposition by all communities residing in Assam as the cut-off date for determination of citizenship. This, it may be emphasized, is irrespective of linguistic and religious affiliation," the release pointed out.
The eminent persons said the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was being presently updated in Assam following a stringent directive from the Supreme Court.
"Any step that puts any obstacles to the updating of the NRC by way of doubt, confusion or uncertainty is most likely to reintroduce the serious instability, communal ill will and conflict that had plagued Assam for three decades and jeopardise peace and progress of this region," the eminent citizens said.
They stressed that the updating of the NRC must be top priority and carried out in a spirit of utmost urgency so that a basis for permanent peace may be established in this region.
The statement also criticised the ruling BJP's ally Asom Gana Parishad over its silence on the issue.
"It is no secret that the Assam Accord that determined March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for determination of citizenship for the troubled state of Assam was the very basis for formation of AGP as a political party," the release said.
It also expressed apprehension that in view of the vast number of Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants, who poured in to Assam since 1971, the proposed amendment would pose a grave existential threat to the various indigenous communities of the state.
They have appealed the Joint Select Committee to extend the deadline of September 30 for receiving views by at least one month and visit the state to examine the situation and accept representations from the people.
They also appealed to the Asom Sahitya Sabha, All Assam Students' Union and Assam Jatiyotabadi Yuva Parishad, who claim to represent the indigenous people, to declare their opposition to the 'dangerous' amendment.
The Asom Jatiyotabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) has, meanwhile, opposed the Union Government's move.
"Recent moves in Delhi have proved that the BJP-led Government at the Centre has been least bothered about the Bangladeshi-immigrant issue. The Narendra Modi Government is keen to have a huge Hindu Bangladeshi vote bank to ensure a better political career of the BJP leaders," AJYCP President Biraj Kumar Talukdar said.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in July and has been referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both the Houses, under the chairmanship of BJP MP Satyapal Singh.
The government has also invited views and suggestions from the public on the bill which has been uploaded on the Lok Sabha website for review. It asked people to indicate if they would want to appear before the committee.
The Citizenship Act, 1955, provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired.
The amendment would allow citizenship to undocumented Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
(With PTI inputs)