"No Automatic Citizenship": Centre As Northeast Protests Citizenship Act

Citizenship Amendment Act: In its outreach to protesters in the North East this morning, the centre also said regional identities would continue to be protected under Article 371 and said the "sanctity" of the 1985 Assam Accord would be preserved

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed by parliament and signed into law in the space of four days

Guwahati / New Delhi:

The centre has moved to allay fears over an influx of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees into the North East with a number of tweets on the official PIB Twitter handle this morning, after violent protests engulfed Assam and parts of the North East for a fourth consecutive day on Saturday. In a series labelled "#Mythbusters", the centre claimed the CAA would not trigger a fresh wave of migration and said: "...population share of Hindus in Bangladesh has declined from 28 per cent to 8 per cent... most minorities have already migrated".

The centre also said fears the CAA would make Indian citizens of the 1.5 lakh undocumented Hindu Bengalis in Assam were misplaced.

"No foreigners will get citizenship automatically by the Act. A prescribed authority will scrutinise each application submitted for citizenship; and only those persons complying with the criteria specified in the Act will be granted Indian citizenship," one of the tweets reads.

The centre has also claimed that the "scale of atrocities... in Bangladesh has been coming down in recent years" and that "large-scale migration on account of religious persecution is now a remote possibility".

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar made similar remarks on Thursday, hours after Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen cancelled his visit; a day earlier Mr Momen said allegations of repression of minorities in his country were "untrue".

The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, was passed earlier this week, after a heated debate in parliament - Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien said it was from the "Nazi playbook". The introduction of the Citizenship Bill and its passing also sparked furious protests in the North East, particularly in Assam, where three people have died, thousands have taken to the streets in defiance of a curfew and the Army has been called out in large numbers.

Protesters in the North East - these include the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a key political ally of the ruling BJP, and student-led organisations - have expressed concerns the CAA could see an influx of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh who will threaten identities and livelihoods of indigenous people.

The intensity of North East protests - a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had to be postponed - has also led to key Assam BJP leaders resign and dissent within the ruling alliance in the state.

In its outreach to protesters this morning, the centre also reassured them that regional identities would continue to be protected under Article 371 and said the "sanctity" of the 1985 Assam Accord would be preserved.

The centre also reiterated that tribal areas of certain states and areas under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system (this includes the entire state of Manipur) would be exempted.

"CAA applies to minorities from other countries, and has no connection to minorities in Assam. This has been clarified by the Home Minister in parliament," the centre said today.

In addition to protests in the North East, the Chief Ministers of at least three other states - Bengal, Punjab and Kerala - have said the CAA will not be implemented in their territories, setting up a legal tug-of-war between them and the centre.

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