New Delhi: National People’s Party President and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma asserted that his party will decide at an ‘appropriate time’ on breaking alliance with the NDA government over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. “We will continue to ensure that the Bill is not passed. We at the NPP are totally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as it will change the demography of the region,”Sangma told a news agency.
He added,”We have met several leaders cutting across party lines in the national capital and had sought their support not to vote in favour of the Bill if it is brought in the Rajya Sabha. We are also in touch with leaders of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.”
Notably, Sangma along with other North-East-based regional parties had sought support of several political parties not to vote in favour of the Bill if it is tabled in the Rajya Sabha.
On being asked, if Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave him and other regional parties leaders time to discuss the issue, the NPP leader said, “We have requested for appointment, but the Prime Minister’s Office has not been able to give dates. We hope to get an appointment soon.”
Meanwhile, the proposed Citizenship Bill has triggered apprehension in the northeast region, with various political parties and civic groups raising voice against the legislation. “If this is implemented, “outsiders” will overwhelm the local population,” they claimed.
Earlier, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had clarified that the BJP-led government in the state would not support the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill unless there was a provision for protecting the indigenous people of the northeast.
About Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to people belonging to six minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who entered India before December 31, 2014. Muslim refugees are not covered by the Bill.
‘Bill Violates Assam Accord of 1985’
The Bill’s opponents are challenging it on the grounds that it violates the Assam Accord of 1985. The Assam Accord was signed on August 15, 1985, between the then government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Assam government and the All Assam Students Union (AASU) that spearheaded a six-year-long non-violent student-led protest movement against illegal migration of hundreds of thousands of people from across the border in Bangladesh.
According to the accord, only those who came to Assam till March 24, 1971, will be accepted as Indian citizens. The operative part of Clause 5 of the Assam Accord states: “Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.”
This means all illegal migrants irrespective of religion will be detected, deleted from voters list and expelled.
However, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, brought in by the Modi government, seeks to make an exception to this by bringing in religion to give refuge illegal infiltrators.
Opponents of the Bill say that the ruling BJP is seeking to create a “vote bank” among Bengali Hindus who have illegally come into Assam from Bangladesh post-1971. This, the opponents say, has the potential to make demographic changes in the state, thereby threatening the identity and culture of the indigenous Assamese people of the state.
The ruling BJP, however, claims that the Bill will give refuge to only around 800,000 people barely making any impact on the demography of the state.