Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday claimed that misinformation was being spread about the Citizenship Bill and asserted that interests of indigenous people will not be harmed.
Even as protests continued at many places across the state, Mr Sonowal appealed to all those opposing the controversial bill to support the Centre’s “pragmatic steps” for implementing the Clause-6 of the Assam Accord.
Sadou Asam Karmachari Parishad, the recognised body representing government employees, extended its full support to the ongoing agitation led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) against the bill and warned that the Centre will solely be responsible for any untoward situation due to the protests.
During a function to inaugurate the newly-established branch of Auniati Satra at Bandardewa in Lakhimpur district, Mr Sonowal said that a misinformation campaign was being unleashed by certain organisations on the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
“While people pay utmost respect to movements led by the non violent values of Mahatma Gandhi, misinformation always lends negative impact in society and such campaigns are always discarded by people,” he said.
Trying to alleviate fears among the Assamese people, he explained that even if the bill was enacted as law, no one will get citizenship automatically, as one has to apply to the concerned district’s deputy commissioner, who will then review and forward it to a competent authority to make the applicant an Indian national.
Talking about the recent high-power committee set up by the Centre, Mr Sonowal said, “Though several governments came to power in the state as well as the Centre after the signing of Assam Accord in 1985, no government made any tangible effort to implement Clause 6 of the Accord, safeguarding the constitutional, legislative, administrative interests of the indigenous people.”
“The present central government has for the first time taken pragmatic steps for implementation of Clause 6 by constituting a high-level committee and also taking steps for granting ST status to six communities of the state.”
These efforts will go a long way in protecting the interests of the indigenous people of the state, he said.
Protests against the bill took place at various places in the state with the All Maran Students’ Union holding an economic blockade for all vehicles for Arunachal Pradesh, and organising a bike rally at Makum.
Black flags were shown to Congress MP Sushmita Dev for her reported move to support the bill, which favours Hindus coming from Bangladesh.
The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India, even if they do not possess any document.
Massive protests broke out across the state and other parts of the northeast after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Silchar on January 4 that the controversial bill would be passed as soon as possible in Parliament.