'RAW to verify persecution documents for citizenship'

'RAW to verify persecution documents for citizenship'

Photo caption: AGP MLAs in a hunger strike in Guwahati on Thursday. DH photo 

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday said the applications submitted by 'persecuted' migrants seeking Indian citizenship would be verified by the RAW before approval.

"Misinformation is being spread among people that illegal migrants living in Assam will easily get citizenship once the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 is passed. Let me assure people in Assam that multi-layered scrutiny of the documents will be done to ensure that only persecuted migrants are given the citizenship. Although citizenship is a centre's issue, states have been given the power to scrutinise the applications. Once a person submits an application to the district magistrate, the documents will be thoroughly verified before sending them to the Centre. The RAW will then verify whether there was any such religious persecution in that particular country and time before approval," Sonowal said here while welcoming BJP's newly elected representatives to the panchayats and Zila Parishad.

Sonowal made the assurance almost at a time when all 12 MLAs of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a regional party which quit the alliance with BJP staged a hunger strike here to oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019. AGP had quit the alliance on January 7, a day before the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha.

The bill seeks to allow 'persecuted'  Hindus, Christians, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Sikhs from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who migrated to India till December 2014 to apply for citizenship after a stay of six years. 

Indigenous people in Assam and rest of the Northeast are up against the bill fearing that it would reduce them into minorities if the 'large number of illegal migrants' already living in the region are given citizenship. 

RAW had earlier told the Joint Parliamentary Committee that nearly 35,000 persecuted migrants would be the immediate beneficiaries once the bill is passed. 

AGP president and former cabinet minister Atul Bora said the bill would destroy identity, culture and language of Assamese people and the party decided to quit the alliance as BJP did not listen to its opposition to the bill. 

In Manipur, police used tear gas shells to quell a mob of students to tried to storm into the house of a BJP MP in Imphal on Thursday afternoon, while protesting the bill.