Centre to consider concerns of Assam people before Citizenship Bill

The Centre has assured the people of Assam that their concerns will be taken into consideration before taking any decision on the amendment to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on Wednesday.

He told the media that he got this assurance from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during a long meeting on Wednesday, a day after thousands of people participated in a mass hunger strike in Assam to protest against the bill.

“There should be no apprehension in the minds of the people of Assam about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The Centre has given an assurance that concerns of people of Assam will be allayed before taking any step,” Sonowal said.

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The All Assam Students Union, supported by at least 28 other organisations including the Asom Gana Parishad, a partner of the BJP-led government in Assam, and the Congress on Tuesday staged protest in Guwahati warning a massive agitation in case the Centre and state went ahead with the passage and implementation of the bill.

Protests have become the order of the day in Assam since a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 visited the state this month.

The bill aims to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees who have fled from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan following persecution. However, in Assam, several indigenous groups view it as a move to legitimise Hindu migration from Bangladesh after 1971.

United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) has also threatened to derail the peace accord with the Central government over the issue related to the bill by conveying its strong opposition to government interlocutor A.B. Mathur during a meeting in New Delhi last week. Ulfa suspects the bill would reduce the indigenous people in Assam to a minority.

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