Assam Health and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019 has been implemented to address the unresolved issues of the Assam Accord of 1985.
The government had no intention to go against the spirit of the accord, he insisted while speaking at a special session of the 126-member State Assembly on Monday evening to discuss issues arising out of the ongoing anti-CAA protests in Assam.
“The Citizenship Act was amended not to dilute the spirit of the Assam Accord but to address some of its unresolved issues,” he said.
Pointing out certain “gaps” left while amending the Citizenship Act in 1983, 1997 and 2003, he said the cut-off date for the detection and deportation of illegal migrants was 1966 and not 1971 according to the “only four-page” accord.
“The accord did not incorporate many issues that evolved gradually... The cut-off date of 1971 was just a provision for those who came to Assam after 1967 and declared before foreigners’ registration officers that they were from Bangladesh,” he stated.
The accord was violated when a provision was added that the names of the 1967-1971 stream of foreigners would be kept out of the electoral rolls for 10 years after which they would be regularised. The fear among the people that the CAA would bring in millions of people needed to be dispelled, he said. He called for patience till the rules for the CAA are framed.
“We can adopt a resolution in the Assembly to make the CAA more stringent once the rules are framed. We can also resolve that the date of December 31, 2014 (cut-off for CAA beneficiaries belonging to six non-Muslim communities) can never be extended,” he said. The CAA would not benefit more than 5 lakh people in Assam. "I will quit politics if the figure is more than that,” he added.
AASU's chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya said, “No matter how much the government justifies the CAA, Assam cannot be burdened with even one illegal migrant from 1971 to 2014. Clause 6 of the Accord was thought of for providing constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people because Assam had to take the burden of illegal migrants up to March 24, 1971.”
Facebook live streaming row
The Opposition parties lodged complaints with Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami for the Facebook live from the House during the Monday special session and Mr. Goswami has ordered a probe into the issue.
All India United Democratic Front MLA Aminul Islam told the Speaker in a note, “The speech of the Minister is going on Facebook Live for which you once suspended me from the august House.”
On February 6, 2017, Mr. Goswami suspended Mr. Islam for three days for using Facebook Live to telecast his speech from inside the House. “Aminul Islam is suspended till February 8. I request Islam to leave the House immediately,” he had said.
Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia and fellow party MLA Rakibul Hussain also raised the issue in the House on Monday.
Paddy for legal fight
Farmers in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district have deposited 45,000 kg of rice at a local office of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) to be sold for funding the legal battle against the CAA in the Supreme Court.
The court is scheduled to hear on January 22 a set of cases filed by the AASU and other organisations and individuals against the CAA.
Local leaders said each household in 85 revenue villages in the Sasoni area pledged 4 kg of paddy for challenging the CAA in court. A few villages remain to be covered for collecting a targeted 60,000 kg of rice.
Anjan Neog, a leader of the Dibrugarh district unit of the AASU, said the paddy would be sold to local traders during a mass protest on January 18.