The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 arrived in Meghalaya on Thursday for conducting public hearing amid strong protest against the ?BJP-led ?NDA government’s move to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 for granting Indian citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – but not Muslims – who entered India from different neighbouring countries.
The JPC Chairman and BJP Lok Sabha MP from Meerut, Rajendra Agrawal along with other members of the Committee arrived here in the afternoon and started hearing on the Bill with several pressure groups and individuals at the State Convention Centre near Hotel Pinewood here.
A sit-in demonstration organised by the Federation of Khasi Jaiñtia and Garo People to protest the Bill was held near the statue of Khasi freedom fighter, U Kiang Nangbah. Pro-talk ULFA leader Anup Chetia and representatives of other organisations also participated in the protest.
When the hearing was in ??progress at the State Convention Centre, members of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), however, staged a surprise protest in the premises of the venue, and raised banners and placards to register their protest against the Bill.
Representatives of the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) also came to Shillong and met the JPC team where they voiced their opposition against the Bill and handed over a memorandum to the JPC team.
“We told the JPC that if this Bill is passed to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants, it is better to bring the Indian army and kill us,” Jamu Debbarma, General Secretary of the INPT youth wing told media persons.
The Northeast Students’ Organisation (NESO) leaders led by its chairman, Samuel B Jyrwa and adviser, Samujjal Kr Bhattacharya met the JPC team for nearly an hour and submitted a memorandum opposing the Bill.
Registering strong opposition to the Bill, the NESO, a conglomerate of several organisations from various States in the Northeast told the JPC that the proposed Bill is the latest example that “lawmakers of the country have no regard for the future of the Northeastern region”.
According to Bhattacharya, the proposed Bill, which will turn States in the Northeast into a “dumping ground” of illegal Bangladeshis can never be accepted by the people of the region.
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Anup Chetia and Samujjal Bhattacharya said that the BJP-led government in Assam as well as other States in the Northeast should take a strong stand against the Bill like what has been exhibited by the NPP-led government in Meghalaya.
On May 8, the Meghalaya Cabinet had decided to oppose the Bill. It may be mentioned that the coalition Meghalaya government also has the BJP as its partner.
Stating that the Bill would defeat the purpose of signing the Assam Accord where March 25, 1971 was fixed as the cut off year for detection and deportation of foreigners from Assam, the NESO said, “In totality, we oppose the bill and demand that Inner Line Permit system be introduced for the entire North-eastern region. Constitutional safeguards should be provided to the people of the North-eastern States and federal authority should be granted to the states to assert rights over land and natural resources.”
Groups from Meghalaya, which include the Khasi Students’ Union, Garo Students’ Union, Hynñiewtrep Youth Council (HYC), Hynñiewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), Federation of Khasi Jaiñtia and Garo People (FKJGP), Social Organisations of Meghalaya Against Land Alienation, and other groups and individuals met the JPC and expressed their views on the Bill.
“All opinions and views will be compiled in a report which will be submitted to the Parliament,” Agrawal told reporters after emerging out of the hearing.
After being questioned by various groups for visiting only Assam and Meghalaya to conduct the hearing on the Bill, Agrawal indicated that a plan would be worked out to visit other States in the Northeast, if needed.
The JPC conducted public hearing on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 from May 7, 2018 to May 9, 2018.