By Venkatram Narendra Puppala
New Delhi– The Centre on Thursday issued a statement in a bid to make the provisions of Citizenship Amendment Bill clearer for the people of North-East. The Bill has passed the legislative test in Parliament.
The Home Minister said the Bill did not dilute the ‘Assam Accord’. “The Union government is committed to implementing the Assam Accord. There is a Standing Committee in MHA to monitor implementation of the accord. The CAB does not dilute the sanctity of Assam Accord as far as the cut-off date of March 24, 1971, stipulated for detection/deportation of illegal immigrants, is concerned.”
The CAB, which has a cut-off date December 31, 2014, is a special legislation intended to address the concerns of only a few identified minorities on humanitarian grounds.
The government has said that CAB is not Assam-centric. It is applicable to the whole country and it is definitely not against the NRC, which is being updated to protect indigenous communities from illegal immigrants.
The Union government said it has constituted a committee comprising eminent personalities of Assam to recommend steps for implementation of Clause 6 of Assam Accord. “The government has also said that constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
The government further said: “No provision of Article 371 would be violated by this Bill.” It also clarified that “provisions of the amendments to the Citizenship Act would not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution” in order to remove the doubts about indigenous communities of the north-eastern part of the country.
Talking about the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime, the ministry said that “the areas regulated under ‘The Inner Line’ permit have been exempted. Manipur will also be brought under the ILP as announced on Wednesday.
The government said it aims “to target genuine refugees and not intruders.” In the statement, the government said the Bill is not applicable in Assam only, but the entire country.
“Persons facing religious persecution are not settled only in Assam but in other parts of the country also. The fear that Assam will have to bear extra burden is misplaced. Further, Bengali Hindus over generations have immensely contributed to the economic development of the state.”
The government tried to make the Bill more comprehensive on mass migration and said, “Large-scale migration on account of religious persecution is now a remote possibility” because most of the migration has already happened after the independence and, moreover, CAB has a cut-off date and will not be available for members of the religious minorities who will migrate to India after the cut-off date.
The NDA government has been facing charge that the legislation would disturb the demographic structure of N-E states. It said that CAB will not lead to domination of Bengali speaking people because “most of the Hindu Bengali population is settled in Barak Valley of Assam, where Bengali is declared the second state Language”.
“Hindu Bengalis are settled in isolated pockets and have adapted themselves to Assamese language in the Brahmaputra Valley.”
The government also said that there is perfect harmony between the two linguistic groups at present which will continue even after CAB is passed.
Reiterating that CAB applies to minorities from other countries, the Home Ministry said that the Bill “has no connection to minorities in Assam.”