Centre's order to grant citizenship to illegal migrants sparks mixed reactions in Assam; Bengali groups welcome move

The Centre's recent notification to register Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian infiltrators from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh as Indians in 16 districts across seven states in India has evoked clashing reactions in Assam as Bengali organisations welcome the move while outfits representing Assamese society oppose it vehemently.

“Though the order is related to districts which do not belong to Assam, we see the move as something clearly in opposition to our demand to detect and deport illegal migrants, irrespective of their religious affiliations,” says All Assam Students Union general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi.

 Centres order to grant citizenship to illegal migrants sparks mixed reactions in Assam; Bengali groups welcome move

Representational image. Reuters

The order passed on Thursday, which will come into effect from 22 December, includes districts Raipur (Chhattisgarh); Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kutch (Gujarat); Bhopal and Indore (Madhya Pradesh); Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Thane (Maharashtra); Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Jaipur (Rajasthan); Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh); and West Delhi and South Delhi, reports Hindustan Times.

The notification is in line with the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 that envisages to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who fled their countries facing religious persecution. The notification is also in line with the BJP’s poll promise to grant citizenship to minorities who have fled these countries.

Many among the tribes and ethnic groups in Assam see the notification as a prior move to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, a proposed law they are fighting tooth and nail against. The very idea of granting citizenship to Bangladeshis, irrespective of their religious affiliation, is vehemently opposed, not only in Assam, but also in the remaining six northeastern states.

Only recently, more than 46 organisations in Assam called for a statewide bandh opposing Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. It was observed successfully.

“If this bill becomes an act, illegal migrants from Bangladesh who are residing in Assam will get citizenship. This will not only turn the indigenous people of the state into minority but also exert tremendous pressure on the existing resources of the state, including land,” says Gogoi.

The Bodoland Territorial Council, a local self-government of the Bodo tribe in Assam, released data regarding encroachment of land. Though the recent order does not pertain to Assam, it is still seen as a reason to fear in Assam.

“How can you be sure that the people after getting citizenship as residents of Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh would not move to settle in Assam, adding to our woes?” asks Palash Changmai, general secretary, Asom Jatiyotabdi Juba Chatra Parishad.

It is also equally feared that the illegal migrants living in Assam would avail Indian citizenship, showing themselves to be resident of any of the 16 notified districts, and move back to Assam.

In contrast to what Assamese organisations demand, the notification is welcomed by Bengali organisations.

Shantanu Mukherjee, general secretary of Sadau Asom Bangali Oikyo Mancha, said, “Why would not we welcome the Centre’s move? After all, the people who have been granted citizenship are victims of religious persecution in their countries, which made them flee to India.”

He also asked, “Where will these people go? If Hindus do not get citizenship in India, where will they get?”

The Centre’s notification has drawn the line of difference between the majority Assamese and linguistic minority Bengalis. Balancing the aspirations of both the communities might prove tough for the ruling BJP.

Updated Date: Oct 30, 2018 19:10:12 IST