CM Sonowal threatens to quit if Assam's interest not protected

Students protest in front of Cotton University in Guwahati on Thursday

There is no reason for the people of Assam to panic as it was Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal who had insisted that a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) visit the state and listen to the views of the people, senior minister and government spokesman Chandramohan Patowary said.

The prime minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government's decision to bring modifications to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1955 to make it easier for Bangladeshi Hindus to get Indian citizenship has triggered a sharp division of opinion on linguistic lines in Assam's predominately Assamese-speaking Brahmaputra Valley and largely Bengali-speaking Barak Valley. That is why we will sincerely work for safeguarding the interests of the people of Assam. More than 100 groups, including Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Congress and All Assam Students' Union (AASU), gathered on the streets of Guwahati to voice their opposition on May 7. Such fears among the indigenous people in Assam will become reality if we all do not stand strongly against the Bill. "We will not take any decision that goes against the people of Assam", Sonowal told media persons here. "I appeal all to maintain peace so that unwanted situations do not develop in the state", he said.

"The chief minister needs to take the initiative in this matter because he is the leader of the House and dates for Assembly sessions and list of business are fixed as per his advice to the Governor and the Speaker, he added".

The chief minister said that before the JPC's visit, it was alleged that he was not allowing it to come to Assam.

Before passing the Bill, Centre constituted a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) comprising of 16 members who are now on a tour of the North East to solicit views on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. "It was due to his efforts that saw the IMDT (Illegal Migrants' Determination Tribunal) Act, which made detection of immigrants hard, being struck down (by the Supreme Court)", Patowary said while appealing to the people to have faith on the government. "This time, people have been given top priority", he said. As per the Accord, the immigrants, irrespective of faith who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, will be detected and deported. While nearly all organisations and non-BJP political parties in Assamese-speaking Brahmaputra Valley opposed the bill, the Bengali-speaking Barak Valley supported it.

The JPC's three-day hearing in Assam since Monday saw the State being divided on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Northeast India Federation of Journalists (NIFJ) has expressed grave concern over the Government of India's move to amend the Citizenship Act so as to confer citizenship to all refugees belonging to the religious Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain communities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Af- ghanistan despite strong opposition from the North East region.

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