- We have to move forward with the reality — neither can we expel lakhs of illegal migrants nor will Bangladesh ever take them back: AGP’s Atul Bora
- AGP’s changed stance comes close on the heels of Amit Shah’s assurance that CAB would not affect the indigenous people of the north-east
Assam saw huge protests againstthe CAB (File photo)
GUWAHATI: BJP’s ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Tuesday indicated a U-turn on the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which it had vehemently opposed so far. The Bill, popularly known as CAB, is likely to be tabled in Parliament next week.
Indicating a change of stand on the issue, AGP member and Assam minister Atul Bora said: “We have to move forward with the reality — neither can we expel lakhs of illegal migrants nor will Bangladesh ever take them back. We had our government twice in the past but we could not even identify the illegal migrants. Unfortunately, the Assam Accord has only gathered dust for over 34 years.”
AGP’s changed stance comes close on the heels of Union home minister Amit Shah’s assurance to chief ministers of north-eastern states as well as political and civil organizations that CAB would not affect the indigenous people of the region. CAB proposes to offer citizenship to non-Muslim people from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who face religious persecution.
“When we know the reality, the only right decision of the moment for us is to bargain (with the Centre) politically to get something for safeguarding the language and culture of the indigenous Assamese people. We know that in the bargain, we will have to take an extra burden (of religiously persecuted migrants).”
Bora said unlike last time, when the government failed to pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha and it lapsed in the Lok Sabha, BJP today has the numbers in both Houses of Parliament and no one can stop it if it wants to fulfil its national agenda of amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. He added that the right thing for his party at the moment is to be realistic and take smart political steps to bargain a deal with the Centre.
Among AGP’s bargaining points would be to seek 100% job reservation for local youths in Grade III and Grade IV categories in Northeast Frontier Railway and the oil sector. “We would also want the delimitation process to begin so that assembly and Lok Sabha seats are reserved for indigenous people. We also demand amendment to Article 350 to make the protection to the state language even stronger,” said Bora.
The minister added, “We still oppose the Bill in its old form. We are waiting to see, as Amit Shah has assured, what the re-written Bill will have for our safeguard.”
The draft of the new Bill is likely to incorporate several measures to protect indigenous tribal people and their land in the entire region. It will be given to all the stakeholders of the region before it is tabled in Parliament.
In January last year, AGP had pulled out of NDA after Lok Sabha passed the earlier version of the Bill, which BJP had introduced in Parliament in 2016. When the Bill lapsed in the Lok Sabha, AGP returned to the alliance.
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