In view of the threats posed to the indigenous communities of Assam by the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955, a panel of eminent intellectuals met in Guwahati to discuss suitable recourse. This is a statement from them.
A meeting of conscious citizens of Guwahati representing all sections of political opinion and all social groups of Assam, held at the Press Club, Guwahati, on 21-09-2016 expressed a sense of shock and anguish at the proposed 2016 amendment of the Citizenship Act 1955, now under consideration of the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament.
It was unanimously held in the meeting that in view of the vast number of Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants who have poured into Assam since 1971 , the proposed amendment will pose a grave existential threat to the various communities indigenous to the state, and the following resolutions were adopted against the proposed amendments:
- The date of March 24, 1971 has been accepted after a tumultous period of resistance and opposition, by all communities resident in Assam, as the cut-off date for determinatiion of citizenship. The National Register of Citizens is being presently updated in Assam following a stringent directive from the Supreme Court. This cut-off date, it may be emphasized, is irrespective of linguistic and religious affiliation.
Any step that puts any obstacles to the updating of the NRC by way of doubt, confusion or uncertainty is most liikely to reintroduce the serious instability, communal ill will and conflict that had plagued Assam for three decades and jeoparding peace and progress of this region.
Hence the updating of the NRC must be top priority and carried out in a spirit of utmost urgency, so that a basis of permanent peace and orderly progress may be established in this region.
- All the organizations in the state devoted to protection of identity and economic and political interest of various indigenous communities of the region are alerted to the need for urgent action on this issue and mobilize the people for opposition to the proposed amendment.
Organizations representing the interest of people of various communities who had immigrated between 1947 and 1971 are also hereby urged to take appropriate action on support of their brothers from indigenous communities.
- Since the period of time alloted for submission of views regarding the proposed amendment is extremely short (the deadline being September 30, 2016) in relation to the magnitude of the crisis it poses for indigenous communities, the Joint Select Committee is hereby urged to extend the date at least for a month.
Further since the gravity and the complexity and the consequences of the Act are largely unknown to people outside the state, the Joint Select Committee is urged to visit the state, exaimine the situation, and receive representations and memoranda from the people whom the proposed amendment is going to affect.
- Since knowledge of both English and Hindi in the state is limited, the Joint Select Committee is requested to receive views of people to be affected by the proposed amendment in other officially recognized laguages of India.
- All the organizations that claim to represent the interest of the indigenous people, including Asom Sahitya Sabha, the All Assam Students’ Union and the Assam Jatiyotabadi Yuva Parishad are hereby urged to declare their opposition to the dangerous amendment and organize public opinion against it.
- The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a political party that had come into being solely with the proclaimed intention of safeguarding the interest of the indigenous communities of Assam, has maintained a disturbing silence on this crucial issue affecting the fate of the indigenous communities. It is no secret that the Assam Accord that determined March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for determination of citizenship for the troubled state of Assam was the very basis for formation of AGP as a political party. That political party may not have any rational basis for its existence if it does not clearly reiterate its commitment to this date.
Dr Hiren Gohain
Prof Udayaditya Bharali
Prof Apurba Barua
Dr Dinesh Baishya
Prof Manorama Sharma
Dr Akhil Ranjan Dutta
Feature image source – New Indian Express