Shah balm to allies in NE over Citizenship Bill row

Guwahati: Union Home Minister Amit Shah being feliciated by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal during the 4th Conclave of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), in Guwahati, Monday, Sept 9, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI9_9_2019_000075B)

Concerns expressed by three chief ministers over BJP’s plan to table Citizenship (Amendment) Bill again prompted Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday to assure that the present acts meant to protect identity and culture of indigenous people of the Northeast would remain intact.

“I want to make it clear that when the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is brought, all acts presently protecting people, culture and identity of the Northeast including Article 371 will not at all be affected. Let me make it clear that the December 31, 2014 deadline for granting citizenship will remain,” Shah said soon after chief ministers of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland expressed worry over the fallout of the citizenship bill and Assam NRC on rest of the Northeast.

The chief ministers spoke before Shah at the 4th conclave of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) here.

The forum of its regional allies in the Northeast was floated by the BJP in 2016.

Meghalaya Chief Minister and leader of National People’s Party (NPP) Conrad K Sangma said people in most parts of Northeast were scared that illegal migrants from Bangladesh would continue to pour in after the bill is passed by the BJP-led government at the Centre.

“Will the Centre bypass the state laws? We have fear and concerns on whether the Inner Line Permit system, Sixth Schedule provisions or Meghalaya Residency Act will remain applicable or not after the citizenship bill is passed. Will there be any cut-off date for giving citizenship to migrants after the bill is passed? We are under fear after the NRC in Assam excluded over 19 lakh people. We have fear whether the illegal migrants to be identified will enter Meghalaya, since we are are the immediate neighbour. The states should be taken into confidence,” K Sangma said.

Mizoram Chief Minister and chief of Mizo National Front Zoramthanga asked if the Northeast could be exempted from the purview of the Citizenship Bill, which seeks to offer citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nagaland chief minister and leader of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, Neiphieu Rio said the bill should not affect the Northeast.

Atul Bora, president of Asom Gana Parishad, its ally in Assam, however, remain silent on the bill even as it had opposed it earlier.

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