Bowing to the public pressure, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has started the crucial public hearing on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 at the Assam Administrative Staff College in Guwahati on Monday.
During the public hearing on the Bill, around 5,000 individuals including intellectuals, representatives of different organisations and political parties, gathered at the Assam Administrative Staff College premises to express their views regarding the Bill. Most of the individuals and organisations expressed that the Bill be withdrawn for the greater interest of the indigenous people of Assam.
According to information, a total of 127 organisations including political parties had registered to participate in the JPC hearing at Guwahati while a total of 375 organisations including political parties have reportedly registered to participate in the hearing to be held at Silchar on May 8 and 9, 2018.
Attending the hearing, senior Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader and former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta reiterated opposition to Central government’s move to implement the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016.
The AGP submitted a memorandum demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Bill.
The other leaders of the AGP who also participated in the hearing included AGP President and State Agriculture Minister Atul Bora and IT Minister Keshab mahanta.
On the other hand, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA Aminul Islam, who represents the Dhing Legislative Assembly Constituency, also demanded withdrawal of the Bill.
Talking to media, AIUDF MLA Islam said, “Recently the BJP-led government has been trying to divert the people’s attention from the prime issue of demand for withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The recovery of ISIS flag in Nalbari and Goalpara district is nothing but a conspiracy to create panic among people and divert them so that they can fulfil their motif.”
Attending the hearing, senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader and former MLA Hemen Das said, “The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 is totally against the principles of the Indian Constitution.” Demanding identification and deportation of Bangladeshis on the basis of Assam Accord, the CPI-M leader reiterated their firm opposition to the Bill.
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Asom Sahitya Sabha, Asom Nagorik Samaj, Northeast Indigenous Forum from Tripura, Forum against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill along with many forefront organisations of the State raised their voice against the Bill during the hearing in the city.
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi while attending the hearing said, “If nobody works for the survival of the Assamese community, then very soon we will see death of the community.”
Opposing the statement made by the JPC Chairman Rajendra Agarwala in favour of the Bill ahead of the hearing, Gogoi questioned him whether he was in the side of Indian citizens or not.
Gogoi further demanded minimum 10 hearings in the Brahmaputra Valley to acquire a neutral view on the issue.
Moreover, representatives of the All Assam Tai-Ahom Students’ Union (AATASU) and Gariya Yuva Parshad also attended the hearing in protest against the Bill at Guwahati on Monday.
AATASU leaders said, “We will continue our protest against the Bill till the BJP-led government ignores the interest of the indigenous people of Assam.”
On the other hand, Gariya Yuva Parshad leaders said, “We will only support the Assam Accord. We won’t accept the immigrants that the government is trying to dump in Assam by implementing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.”
Singers Tarali Sarma, Manas Rabin, Biman Baruah, national award winning actor Malaya Goswami, actor Prastuti Parashar along with other celebrities also attended the hearing and expressed their opposition to the Bill.
Popular singer Manas Rabin said, “Where and for whom will we sing if the Assamese community does not survive?”
On the other hand, actor Malaya Goswami questioned the BJP-led Central government, “Why is the JPC holding the hearing only on a single day in Guwahati?”
Well-known film personality from the Assamese film industry Prastuti Parashar urged the Central government to withdraw the Bill for the greater interest of the indigenous people of the State. She further pleaded the government to show some respect towards the martyrs who sacrificed their lives during the Assam Movement.
Interestingly, at a time when the BJP wants implementation of the Bill, Assam State BJP Executive Member Mira Borthakur attended the hearing opposing the Bill.
Mira Borthakur said, “We believe that Chief Minister Sarbanada Sonowal will never take such a decision which goes against the interest of the indigenous people of the State. Since we promised to the people of the State during the 2016 Assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections to make the State immigrants-free, we have to work for the people of Assam.”
Reacting to the hearing on the Bill, Assam Power Minister, who was also the General Secretary of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Tapan Kumar Gogoi said, “After the hearing, the JPC will take decision in the matter. The government is bound to implement the Assam Accord.”
An Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) press release stated, “The Bill will defeat the very purpose of NRC which will be a complete turnaround to the historic Assam Accord, 1985. Moreover the Bill is ill conceived and against the basic principles of the Constitution of India.”
The APCC also stated that the Bill would destroy the basic principles of the State Re-organisation Act, 1956. “It has created anxiety and resentment among the all section of the people of the State,” it added.
The press release was signed by APCC President Ripun Bora, Leader of the opposition of Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia, former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Samguri MLA Rakibul Hussain, Kaliabor MP Gaurav Gogoi, APCC Chief Whip Wazed ali Choudhury, Mariani MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi, APCC General Secretary Apurba Bhattacharyya, Abu Saleh Najmuddin and APCC RTI department Chairman Victor Carpenter.
Asom Sahitya Sabha President Dr Paramananda Rajbongshi also attended the hearing besides a number of senior journalists.
However, the AASU leadership was criticised for their absence during the hearing though they participated in a hearing conducted at New Delhi by the JPC recently.