Assam indigenous groups oppose amendment to Citizenship Act, say propose Bill is threat to secularism


Sixteen indigenous groups of Assam on Monday told a parliamentary panel that the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will violate the idea of secularism of the Constitution by distinguishing illegal immigrants on the basis of religion.

The representatives of the indigenous groups informed the parliamentary panel that the bill also threatens the existence of communities in the state.

The group informed the Joint Committee on the Bill to Amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal, that the proposed Bill to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis is totally unacceptable to the ethnic communities and people of Assam.

“The proposed Bill violates the very idea of secularism. The Bangaldeshi immigrants must not be differentiated on basis of religion,” All Bodo Students’ Union president said.

He further added that “post-1971 illegal immigrants, must not be differentiated on basis of religion.”

The Bodo president further added that in no circumstances the ethnic communities and the people of Assam will agree to the proposal.

“The proposed Bill will destroy or exterminate the indigenous ST, SC and other ethnic communities of Assam and will reduce the indigenous people of the state into minorities,” he said.

Predicting a “vigorous mass movement” against the proposed Bill, secretary general of the All Assam Tribal Sangha Aditya Khaklari said if it is passed by Parliament, it will disturb the peaceful environment of Assam and will encourage fresh illegal infiltration into the state.

Introduced in the Lok Sabha, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955.

It seeks to allow illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to not be imprisoned or deported.

It also appeals for the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be lessened from at least 11 to six years for such migrants. The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants.

The proposed amendments are not acceptable to the indigenous groups from Assam as it contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985, which clearly states that illegal migrants who entered India after March 25, 1971, would be deported irrespective of their religions.

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