Growing public sentiment against the Centre's move to amend the Citizenship Act has given a "fresh lease of life" to the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which has recruited eights youths in the last two months, a senior officer of the Assam Police has said.
Director General (Special Branch) of Assam Police Pallav Bhattacharjee said police foiled ULFA's plan to recruit another batch of eight youths and that a number of men from five districts have gravitated towards the banned organisation.
"Since September 1, eight youths have joined ULFA, and another eight were apprehended in the process of joining it," he told news agency PTI today.
The 1986-batch IPS officer said strong public sentiment against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Brahmaputra Valley has given a "fresh lease of life" to ULFA, which has been claiming that the bill "threatens the existence of indigenous people" of the state.
Mr Bhattacharjee said a leader of the All Assam Students' Union's Dergaon unit, Pankaj Pratim Dutta, recently joined ULFA which is a very "disturbing" development.
The proposed amendment to the Citizenship Bill, 1955 seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities -- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians -- from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don't possess any proper document.
A large section of people and organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill, saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.
The DGP (SB) said police were keeping a strict vigil on ULFA's attempts to lure youths from Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Golaghat and Udalguri districts.
Five Bengali Hindus were killed by suspected ULFA militants in Tinsukia district on November 1.
The BJP MP from Meerut, Rajendra Agrawal, who is the chairman of the Joint Parliament Committee examining the bill, said the panel is likely to submit its report in the Lok Sabha in the Winter Session.
"This will be the last session of the current Lok Sabha. If we don't submit the report, it would mean we have not discharged our duties properly," he told news agency PTI over the phone.
Asked about strong public sentiment against the bill in Assam and ULFA's attempt to the exploit the situation, he said he was aware of the existence of "divergent views" in the state.
"We will try to accommodate all concerns," he said.
Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharjya, chief advisor of AASU, said the people of Assam feel that the bill has been brought to "derail" the process of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a list of state's citizens, currently being updated to identify genuine Indian nationals.
"There is strong resentment against the bill. People feel it is a conspiracy to derail the NRC," he claimed.
Mr Bhattacharjya said the entire Northeastern region is opposed to the bill and the governments in Meghalaya and Mizoram have adopted resolutions against it.
"The entire Northeast is now against the anti-people policy of the BJP-led government," he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)