New Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill has endorsed the move to legalize minority immigrants who entered Assam till December 31, 2014 but asked the government to tread with caution in view of the matter being sub judice and take all legal steps, lest it causes embarrassment at a later stage.
However, eight MPs in the 30-member Committee, headed by Rajendra Agaerwal of the BJP, have appended their notes of dissent to the report of the JPC that was tabled in Parliament on Monday saying the provisions of the Bill went against the spirit of the Assam Accord and will accentuate divisions and discontent among the people of the state.
The dissenting MPs are Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD), Javed Ali Khan (SP), Saugata Roy and Derek O’Brien (TMC), Mohammad Salim (CPI-M), and Bhubaneswar Kalita, Pradip Bhattacharya, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Sushmita Dev (Congress).
The Bill, which aims to give citizenship to six religious minority groups from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has stoked a political controversy, with BJP’s partner in the Assam government, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), registering its strong opposition to the provisions.
Referring to the concerns in many quarters over the amendment to Section 6A in the proposed Bill to give citizenship to minority groups from neighbouring countries, the 440-page report said the Department of Legal Affairs has opined that the proposal to legalise the minority migrants who entered Assam till December, 2014 without valid travel documents appears to be contrary to the Assam Accord.
However, the legislative department clarified that Section 6A of the original Citizenship Act only deals with foreigners who entered India from Bangladesh into Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 24, 1971. It does not provide for any form of detection, deletion or expulsion of foreigners beyond that date.
The report noted that the proposed proviso to exempt persons belonging to certain minority communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has general application beyond the Assam Accord and is intended to apply to the whole of India.
The Legislative Department has emphasised that there appears to be no conflict in the application of the proposed proviso regarding exemption of minority communities coming from Bangladesh to Assam between January 1, 1966, and March 24, 1971 as per the Assam Accord, it said.
Referring to a petition pending in the Supreme Court, the Committee found that Section 6A of the original Act is valid until the larger bench of the Supreme Court delivers its final verdict on the matter.
“While endorsing the move of the government, the Committee was, however, of the view that since the matter was still sub judice, the government had to tread with caution and take recourse to all legal precautions lest it causes embarrassment at a later date.
“The Committee are also of the firm opinion that the primary objective of the Assam Accord viz to protect the cultural, social and linguistic identity of the Assamese people has to be fulfilled and the onus lies with the government to ensure that the proposed legislation does not impede the process of implementation of the Assam Accord,” it said.
The report said the Committee felt that, in view of the anxieties and concerns expressed by the civil society groups in Assam and other northeastern states, the state and central governments should formulate rules and regulations under Clause 6 A to ensure that the identities of indigenous peoples are not threatened in any way by “unintended consequences” of the Citizenship Bill.
As regards the cut-off date at December 31, 2014, the Committee said: “Display of such supportive and humanitarian approach on the part of the government towards the minorities who fled the three countries, including Bangladesh, due to religious persecution is quite appreciable.”
In his dissent report, Mahtab said, during the visit of the Committee to Assam, a large number of delegates apprised the Committee of the serious discontent among the people against the Bill. In an already densely populated state, this will open floodgates, thereby accentuating the discontent among the people of Assam.
The TMC members said they have opposed to the Bill as it brings out the ethnic divisions in Assam and noted that the AGP had threatened to pull out of the Assam government.
“The Bill was seen as one of the reasons for the perceived resurgence extremist groups such as the ULFA-Independent. Security forces blamed the outfit for killing Hindu Bengalis seen as beneficiaries of the Bill in Assam’s Tinsukia district.”
The Congress members noted that the amendments create ethnic divisions in Assam and the Northeast and there were reasons to be perceived that there will be resurgence of extremist groups in Assam and the Northeast.
“Therefore, we feel that the cut-off year should be finalised and be a part of the final report to clarify the citizenship once and for all. The provision of application for citizenship can be submitted at the lower level government officials.”