Leader of Opposition in the Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia on Monday urged all the non-Congress and non-BJP members in the Rajya Sabha to prevent the passage of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
In a letter to the Upper House parliamentarians, the senior Congress leader said people in the north-east were opposed to the bill as they feared for their "land, language, political authority and indigenous identity". "In this hour of crisis, we must take a cue from the chief ministers of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur, who opposed the bill in the interest of their respective states.
The future of the indigenous people of the north-east is at stake, we must rise above politics and take a united stand against the bill," he said. The bill, passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to those Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsees who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014. Soon after it was introduced in the Lower House, the Congress had argued that it did not address the Assam Accord and requested the speaker to refer it to a select committee.
As the speaker refused to accept the demand, the Congress members had staged a walkout. Saikia, in his letter, said the fate of the indigenous people in Tripura due to the illegal immigration of Bengali-speaking Hindus from Bangladesh "has not gone unnoticed" in other parts of the region.
The legislation, if passed, would render the March 24, 1971 cut-off date stipulated in the Assam Accord of 1985 for detection and deportation of illegal migrants obsolete, he maintained. "This unconstitutional and communal bill seeks to nullify the safeguards of detecting and deporting illegal migrants from Assam, irrespective of religion or language," Saikia said in his letter, a copy of which is with the PTI. It was a universally accepted fact that Assam, in particular, had borne the brunt of the massive illegal influx of Muslim and Hindu migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the Congress leader said. "In its 2016 'vision document' before the Assembly election, the BJP had promised to implement the Assam Accord in letter and spirit. This shameless volte-face by the BJP should not be tolerated," he added.
On January 22, Saikia had written to all the non-Congress Rajya Sabha MPs in the north-east, requesting them to join hands in their fight against the legislation. He said a united Opposition had prevented the passage of the legislation in the Rajya Sabha during the recently-concluded Parliament session, but the "danger was not over as yet".
"The NDA government is set to try and get the bill passed in the Rajya Sabha in the next session, which will be the last sitting before the general election. "I would, therefore, personally like to request you (MPs) to join hands with other Rajya Sabha members to prevent the bill from becoming an Act during the next session of the House of Elders," Saikia added.