BJP ally JD-U expresses opposition to Citizenship Bill

BJP ally JD-U expresses opposition to Citizenship Bill

New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) BJP’s ally Janata Dal-United (JD-U) on Saturday expressed its opposition to the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, and said a party delegation will visit Assam on January 28 and 29.

In a statement, the JD-U said its delegation, led by National General Secretary K.C. Tyagi, will express its support to civil society groups opposing the Bill in Assam and the North-East.

The delegation, which will also comprise the party’s Vice President Prashant Kishore, North-East in-charge N.S.N. Lotha and General Secretary Afaque Ahmed Khan, will also meet the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) to express their solidarity with the opposition to the contentious Bill.

Assam and the North-East have been on the boil ever since the controversial Bill was introduced in Parliament earlier this month and passed by the Lok Sabha as it allegedly violates the Assam Accord of 1985 that was signed by the AASU and the Assam and Central governments to detect and deport illegal foreigners from Bangladesh.

According to the Accord, only those who came to Assam till March 24, 1971, will be accepted as Indian citizens.

The operative part of Clause 5 of the Assam Accord states: “Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.”

This means all illegal migrants irrespective of religion will be detected, deleted from voters list and expelled.

According to the Bill, people belonging to the minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, facing religious persecution, will be given citizenship in India.

Muslims refugees are not covered in the ambit of the Bill.

Under the Citizenship Act 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months and for 11 of the previous 14 years.

The new Bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.

According to the new Bill, the cutoff date for people belonging to these religions residing illegally in India is December 31, 2014.

This basically impinges into the cutoff date of March 24,1971, under Clause 5 of the Assam Accord, which is not based on any religion.

According to Saturday’s JD-U statement, the party delegation is visiting Assam in the wake of an AASU delegation meeting Bihar Chief Minister and party National President Nitish Kumar in May last year and apprising him of their apprehensions regarding the Bill.

“The party feels that the apprehensions of the Assam civil society groups have a strong basis,” the statement said.

“Any step which may jeopardise the social peace and communal harmony of Assam and the whole North-East should be taken after serious consideration,” it stated.

It said if the Bill becomes a law, the indigenous people of Assam will become a minority in their own homeland.

“JD-U demands that the government of India must give serious consideration to all the contentious issues with regard to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and mitigate the concerns of the people of Assam,” the statement said.

“The party has decided to oppose the Bill in Rajya Sabha even being an ally of the NDA.”

While the AASU has been leading statewide protests ever since the Bill was proposed in 2016, the AGP pulled out of the ruling BJP-led alliance government in the state earlier this month after the Bill was introduced in Parliament.

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