Leader of the Opposition in Assam Assembly and Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia has alleged that the BJP government in the state is trying to get the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) implemented in a "roundabout" way.
Mr Saikia has cited a March 19 government letter that directed Deputy Commissioners, Superintendents of Police, Foreigners Registration Officers etc to disseminate information regarding grant of citizenship to migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who hold Long Term Visas. The letter was issued days before the Assembly polls after which BJP returned to power.
Sharing a copy of this letter with the media, Mr Saikia has demanded that the long-pending claims and objections process of the National Register of Citizens be completed urgently through Foreigners' Tribunals, as per rules.
Mr Saikia demanded that since only the names of genuine citizens of the pre-1971 period would be left after a fair claims and objections process, the government should issue National Identity Cards to these citizens in accordance with provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
He mentioned that any foreigner can apply for Indian citizenship under Sections 5 & 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and there is no need to invoke the CAA.
He said that since CAA was introduced to grant citizenship to migrants from these three countries, there is reason to suspect that the state government's directive is nothing but a ploy to implement the legislation in the state in a roundabout way.
Mr Saikia said the result of the recently held Assembly elections cannot be interpreted as an endorsement of CAA because the BJP secured only 33.21 per cent of vote share.
He demanded that if a section of foreign migrants are to be granted citizenship on the basis of Long Term Visas, then the Inner Line Permit system should be introduced in Assam as per provisions of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, to safeguard rights of the indigenous people.
Assam had seen widespread protests against the CAA. But while protesters in other parts of the country alleged that the Act is discriminatory on religious grounds, those in Assam were opposing the legislation for a different reason.
The Assam protesters wanted that the cut-off date for citizenship be fixed at 1971 as per the agreement in the 1986 Assam Accord. The CAA offers citizenship to persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who arrived in India before the end of December 2014. The Assamese people opposed the legislation, arguing that it would benefit illegal migrants from Bangladesh who have settled in the state.