Sarbananda Sonowal meets Rajnath Singh amid protests against Citizenship Bill, speculation on some immigrants being excluded

Amidst fierce protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, and a growing number of youth joining the insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA), Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi on Saturday. Sources said the meeting held at the residence of the Union minister was to analyse the recent developments in Assam.

File image of Sarbananda Sonowal. Courtesy: Twitter/@sarbanandsonwal

File image of Sarbananda Sonowal. Courtesy: Twitter/@sarbanandsonwal

Speaking to reporters just after the meeting, Sonowal said the recent Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) to dispose claims and objectives of the updating process of National Register of Citizens (NRC) was discussed.  “We request various organisations to widely publicise the SOP to file claims and objections to help inclusion of genuine citizens left out of the final NRC draft,” he said.  Sonowal also appealed to the public to complain if they found any persons of 'doubtful antecedents' being included in the draft NRC.

But sources in the state government, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Citizenship Bill was thoroughly discussed.  Significantly, the meeting came a day after 70 organisations launched massive protests against the Bill in Assam and demanded that the government refrain from accepting it in the Lok Sabha. Akhil Gogoi, a leader in the protest held in front of the Secretariat on Friday said, “The BJP rose to power in Assam by promising to deport illegal Bangladeshis. But the same party is going to grant citizenship to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh in a bid to turn indigenous people into a minority in their own state.” He also said the attempt to pass this Bill is a betrayal of the people of Assam.

The Bill aims to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians. Indigenous communities in Assam fear that if the Bill is passed, they would be outnumbered by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.  Significantly, it was reasonably apprehended that the protest held on Friday, amidst growing angst could flare into violence. But the Assam Police showed remarkable success in preempting such a possibility by limiting the number of people allowed to participate in the protests to only 1,000 and preventing entry of agitators into the city on motorcycles.

Thousands of people travelled from various corners of the state to Guwahati to participate in the protest but the police detained a good number of them mid-way. But successfully dealing with law and order issues will not solve the problem for the BJP, which is facing a panchayat election next month, which is seen as a test ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

State Election Commissioner HN Bora, announcing the panchayat election schedule at a press conference on 5 November, said the exercise will be held in two phases: on 5 and 9 December. Even as containing the anger in Assam becomes a political imperative for the BJP, speculation is rife that some immigrants from Bangladesh may be excluded from the list of people eligible for citizenship in the Bill. Members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee for Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts by Firstpost.

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Updated Date: Nov 17, 2018 21:44:08 IST

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