Reacting sharply to Assam's minister and convenor of the BJP’s North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Himanta Biswa Sarma’s statement on Hindu Muslim migrants, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said that the BJP has been trying to invoke a "two-nation theory".
According to an Indian Express report, Sarma while referring to Hindu and Muslim migrants had asked people to “choose their enemy — the 1-1.5 lakh people or the 55 lakh people".
Replying to queries on the opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Assam, Sarma on 1 November had reportedly said that it was his party’s policy to differentiate between Hindu and Muslim migrants.
"Himanta Biswa Sarma’s shocking statement shows how the BJP has been invoking two-nation theory. It’s for the first time in India that the Muslim community has been openly excluded. It’s clearly an attempt to revive the two-nation theory on which both the RSS and Mohammed Ali Jinnah agreed upon. The proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act amounts to discrimination on the ground of religion, and challenges the idea of India," Yadav, the former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, who’s also the national president of Swaraj India, the newly formed political party out of Swaraj Abhiyan told Firstpost.
Biswa’s statement comes in the wake of the Modi government's move to propose an amendment to the Citizenship Act which seeks to grant citizenship to persons belonging to "minority communities" such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Those who have either entered into India without valid travel documents or whose validity of documents have expired are regarded as illegal migrants, and hence ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship. The amendments, however, reduces the requirement to acquire “citizenship by naturalisation” from 11 years to six years of ordinary residence for such immigrants.
“Interestingly, the bill does not extend similar treatment to persecuted Muslim minorities such as Ahmediyas in Pakistan or to minorities from the Hindu dominated Nepal. Clearly the government wants to lay down everyone-except-Muslims policy for Indian citizenship. This goes against the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution and violates the sacred principles of our republic,” he alleged.
Swaraj Abhiyan, a splinter group of AAP has alleged that the bill threatens to bring in a dimension of religious communalism to the Constitution by effectively excluding only Muslims from the purview of Indian citizenship.
"The bill also violates the provisions of the Assam Accord 1985 signed between the Government of India and the leaders of the six year long Assam Movement launched on the issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to Assam," Swaraj Abhiyan said in its statement.
The Assam Accord fixed 1971 as the cut-off year for any illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship of India; anyone who came after that was an illegal immigrant irrespective of religion.
“People of Assam have for a long time been feeling that they have been made to bear the (weight of) illegal foreign immigrants. That is why this bill has generated tremendous resentment among the people of Assam and protests by some of its leading public intellectuals. This bill will further alienate them and encourage extremist challenge to the Indian state,” remarked Yadav.
Swaraj Abhiyan has demanded from the BJP to clarify its position on religion as a criterion of Indian citizenship and affirm that the provisions of the Assam accord will not be violated. “We demand that proper public hearings be held on the Citizenship Act (Amendment) Bill. In the mean time, the updating of the National Register of Citizenship being carried on under the direction of the Supreme Court be completed expeditiously and properly," added Yadav.