GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 does not violate or dilute the Assam Accord but will rather help in taking care of and resolving one of the many “unresolved issues” which were not addressed during the time of the Accord’s signing, said Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Taking part in the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s Address in the Legislative Assembly this evening, Sarma also said that there is a lot of wrong notions regarding 1971 as the cut-off date while in reality Clause 5 of the Assam Accord mentions that “all persons who came to Assam prior to January 1, 1966, including those amongst them whose name appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections, shall be regularized” and that “for purposes of detection and deletion of foreigners, January 1, 1966 shall be the base date and year”.
He said that Assam Accord was not an all encompassing document. Sarma said that even the NRC update was not part of the Assam Accord.
“Rather, the NRC (update) evolved as a concept post-Assam Accord. It was one of the unresolved issues of the Assam Accord. That means that the Assam Accord was not full-proof. It has evolved over time,” said the Minister.
He said that the Accord was silent on issues like status of children of the post-1971 illegal immigrants and “that was an unresolved issue”.
Similarly, the Assam Accord spoke about giving considerations to the difficulties regarding the IM (DT) Act and not about repeal or scrapping of that Act, he said.
Sarma said that in such a circumstance scrapping of the IM (DT) Act could also have been considered as a violation of the Assam Accord. He said that similarly the Assam Accord failed to resolve the issue of differentiating between economic migrants and those who have entered the country on account of religious persecution.
He said that particular unresolved issue will now be resolved with the implementation of the CAA.
Sarma said that the Citizenship Act was amended by Congress governments in 1987 and 1992 facilitating children of foreigners to become Indian citizens and that discrepancy was only resolved when the Act was again amended in 2003.
“Similarly, the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the IM (DT) Act resolved that point. Now we have addressed another unresolved issue, that of Hindu Bangladeshis,” said Sarma.
The Minister said that when talking of religious persecution only the minority religious groups can be considered.
He further added, “Which Clause of the Assam Accord states that 1971 is the cut-off date? As per Clause 5 of the Accord ‘for purposes of detection and deletion of foreigners, 1.1.1966 shall be the base date and year’. It also states that all persons who came to Assam prior to 1.1.1966, including those amongst them whose name appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections, shall be regularized. And it also states that foreigners who came to Assam after 1.1.1966 and up to March 24, 1971, shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964.”
He said that those who came to Assam between 1966 and before March 25, 1971, have to declare themselves and then their names will have to be removed from the electoral rolls for a period of 10 years. Only after that can such people again claim full benefits of being citizens.
The Minister said that Clause 5 clearly points to 1967 as the cut-off date.
“So how did we fix 1971 as the base year for the NRC when the Assam Accord clearly mentioned the Voters’ List of 1967? Where was the need for legacy data for the NRC? … If only we had properly read Clause 5 there would have been no need for NRC. The 1967 Voters’ List could have been the NRC,” Sarma said.
“We are not violating the Assam Accord. We are only solving one of the unresolved parts of the Assam Accord,” he added.
Sarma suggested that the Legislative Assembly could form a committee which can discuss other such unresolved issues of the Accord or its shortcomings.
Accusing the Congress of playing politics on the issue of the CAA, Sarma said that two Congress MPs had brought amendments to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or the CAB when it was discussed by the Lok Sabha.
He said that one of the MPs had sought an amendment seeking to include Muslims among the communities who are to be made eligible for citizenship under the Act, while the other Congress parliamentarian had sought inclusion of members of the Ahmadiyya sect of Muslims in the list.
“We are talking of giving citizenship to only five lakh Bangladeshi Hindus. The amendments brought by the Congress would have facilitated granting of citizenship to 65 lakh people, mostly Bangladeshi Muslims… Congress did not bring any amendment talking about violation of the Assam Accord,” Sarma said.
He said that five lakh Bengali Hindus cannot threaten the future of the Assamese community and also added that no Bengali Hindu can become the Chief Minister of Assam.
WITH INPUTS FROM AT