Sliding down from its previous rejection of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which is an ally in the BJP-led Assam government, has asked the Centre to postpone the bill to a later date.
The AGP, which is an offshoot of the six-year-long Assam Agitation against illegal Bangladeshis that had culminated with the Assam Accord in August, 1985, has written a 15-point letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah following a meeting of the party’s legislators in Guwahati on December 5, urging Shah to put off CAB for the time being and asking for various safeguards for the indigenous people.
The letter, signed by AGP president Atul Bora and working president Keshab Mahanta, both Cabinet ministers in the state, said, “…..till the modalities for completion of concrete steps to be taken for protection of specific interests of the indigenous people of Assam, the steps for raising the CAB be postponed to a later date.”
While welcoming the Centre’s move to form the High Powered Committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Accord, which seeks to provide political, social, cultural and economic safeguards for the indigenous people, the AGP has urged the Centre to wait for submission of the report by this Committee before bringing in CAB.
The party also raised various other demands, including right to land only for indigenous people, introduction of Inner Line Permit, Scheduled Tribe status for six communities, and protection and preservation of Assamese language.
It also urged the Centre to take All Assam Students Union, the Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, and the Asam Sahitya Sabha into trust and confidence to settle the issues.
The AGP has been drawing flak for moving back from its earlier complete opposition to the CAB. The party had walked out of the state government and its three ministers in the state Cabinet, including Bora and Mahanta, had resigned from their position in January when the previous Narendra Modi-led Central government had got the CAB passed in the Lok Sabha.
The previous government, however, did not table it in the Rajya Sabha, and following talks between the two parties just ahead of the General Elections in April-May, AGP had returned to the BJP-led alliance in the state and fought the Parliamentary polls together.
The CAB, which is expected to be tabled in the Parliament next week, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities, including Hindus and Sikhs, from the three neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The bill has been facing stiff resistance in Assam and other Northeast states, with the people claiming that the CAB will legalise infiltrators from Bangladesh and change the demographic pattern of the region.