Citizenship Bill Top Priority, Not Interests Of Indigenous People: Upamanyu Hazarika

Himanta Biswa Sarma's statement is only meant to divert the attention of the people of Assam from the core issue of Citizenship Bill : Upamanyu Hazarika


Prabajan Virodhi Manch convener and Supreme Court lawyer Upamanyu Hazarika on November 21st, 2019 came down heavily on the government after Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be undertaken nationwide and repeated in Assam.

Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the Assam government has requested the Centre to reject the recently published NRC in the current form. The state government demanded that a fresh NRC is undertaken in the state on a uniform national cut-off year basis.

“Sarma​’s statement is only meant to divert the attention of the people of Assam from the core issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. This only shows and demonstrates that the Bill, to be introduced and passed in Parliament next week, is the over-riding priority and not the interests of the indigenous people as no concrete steps have been spelt out by Sarma for a uniform cutoff year,” he said.

He added, “In actual fact, religious minorities from neighbouring countries will get citizenship in India and Assam consequently and to assuage the sentiments or forestall any protests from the indigenous people, yet another promise of NRC simply to divert the attention of the people.”

The NRC Data in Assam has already been compiled both on a 1951 and 1971 cut off year basis and even today the present NRC which is on 1971 basis can be easily converted to 1951 as the data has already been compiled and is available, Hazarika said.

“What NRC in Assam needs is a re-verification of a large number of foreigners included in the NRC, particularly in the migrant dominated and border districts and which is an exercise, which the Government can carry out on its own, but not doing. Sarma’s statement is only meant to divert the attention of the people of Assam from the core issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and yet another empty promise just to get CAB passed without protests,” he said.

Hitting out at Sarma, Hazarika said, “Sarma says that the cut off date for Assam should be the same as the rest of the country, which under Article 6 of the Constitution of India is July 19th, 1948. If Sarma is sincere then he and his government will first revise and recall 53 pages submissions of the Assam Government before Supreme Court on May 1st, 2017, in Mahasangha case supporting 1971 cut off date and opposing 1951. Otherwise, nothing stops the Central Government from repealing Clause 6A, of the Citizenship Act which provides for 1971 as the cut off year for Assam, in which event the cut off year for Assam becomes July 19th, 1948 like the rest of the country, but this is not what the Home Minister has said.”

Massive protests have broken out in Assam as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is readying to reintroduce the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the parliament.

In order “protect the indigenous people of Assam”, Hazarika further asked Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to reserve land, employment, trade licences and seats in higher educational institutions only for those who were citizens prior to 1951 as a first step and thereafter have a political reservation for indigenous communities.

Photo credit: @jyotishpawanbordoloi