CAA will be fiasco in Assam, says Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

He predicted that the number of people applying for citizenship via the Citizenship (Amendment) Act would be the lowest in the State

March 14, 2024 04:55 pm | Updated 05:33 pm IST - Guwahati

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma addresses a press conference, in Guwahati, Thursday.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma addresses a press conference, in Guwahati, Thursday. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) of 2019, whose rules were notified on March 11, would be “a fiasco” in Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Thursday.

He underlined the conditions a refugee has to fulfil to predict that Assam would have the lowest number of people applying for citizenship under the CAA.

“It has been four days since the rules for implementing the CAA were notified. There is not a single application on the portal in Assam,” he told journalists while downplaying the sporadic anti-CAA protests in parts of the State.

“The CAA will be a fiasco in Assam. We may have to set up camps for people whose biometrics were locked during the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and ask them to come and apply,” Mr. Sarma said.

Some 19.06 lakh out of 3.3 crore applicants were left out of the NRC, whose complete draft was published on August 31, 2019. They were rejected due to the alleged lack of documents to prove their citizenship.

The Chief Minister said people who did not apply for inclusion of their names in the NRC were unlikely to seek citizenship via the CAA because of questions that would arise.

“Not having applied for NRC means one did not come to India before December 31, 2014. The CAA is very clear that one has to provide evidence of having come to the country before the prescribed date. This law will, therefore, be completely insignificant for Assam,” he said.

“I understand the politics in Assam, which has a strong ecosystem [against ‘illegal immigrants’]. Assam is used as a corridor and even Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants do not stay back. They enter and go out,” he said.

Also Read | Assam braces for protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act

The Chief Minister referred to the mechanisms in place such as the Foreigners’ Tribunals that determine the nationality of doubtful citizens and the categorisation of people as D-voters (doubtful voters) to explain why refugees from Bangladesh would choose West Bengal or other States in the “mainland” over Assam.

“If the people of Assam go to Gujarat and Karnataka to work and earn ₹300 per day, why should people from Bangladesh come to Assam where the daily wage is ₹100 instead of going to Gujarat and Karnataka,” he asked.

Mr. Sarma claimed Assam had left the problem of illegal migration behind and slammed certain elements for spreading “half news” to cash in on the sentiments associated with a perceived demographic invasion from across the border.

“Bangladesh’s Hindu population declined by about 1 crore over some time due to conversion, not migration to India. Those who spread the half news conveniently do not tell people that the Muslim population of Bangladesh has increased,” he said.

“Our justification for bringing CAA is that the minorities are being converted in the neighbouring country,” he added.

Also Read | Watch | All about Citizenship Amendment Rules, 2024

The Chief Minister further said that after the CAA process was over, he would approach the Gauhati High Court and seek an answer on the death of five persons, including a minor, during the anti-CAA agitation in Assam in 2019.

He said the five died because protesters made them believe CAA would let 20 lakh to 1 crore Bangladeshis get citizenship. “It is good that the process is technology-based. People who refused to accept and understand CAA will now have to answer [in court],” he said.

Mr. Sarma requested the people in Assam to wait for the data involving people applying for citizenship before reacting.

Meanwhile, the Citizens’ Rights Protection Committee said applying for citizenship through CAA is a complicated process involving the submission of documents issued by the authorities of the country an applicant is originally from.

“An applicant also has to give an undertaking that he or she will never apply for Indian citizenship if his or her application gets rejected. Therefore, it is unlikely that anybody will apply for citizenship through the CAA,” the committee representing Bengali-speaking people in Assam said in a statement.

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