NATIONAL

Row over citizenship bill in Meghalaya

Protests by social and students’ organisation greeted the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016 as it began its two-day hearing in Meghalaya on Thursday.

The bill, which the BJP-led NDA government wants to push through, seeks to grant citizenship to minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India before December 31, 2014 to escape from religious persecution.

Organisations such as Khasi Students’ Union, Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People and Hynniewtrep National Youth Front staged protests outside the State Convention Centre in Shillong where the 16-member JPC team, led by BJP Lok Sabha member Rajendra Agarwal, conducted the hearing.

The protests followed the decision of the Conrad K. Sangma Cabinet in the State to oppose the bill.

“Constitutionally, Meghalaya is a tribal State, and naturalisation of illegal immigrants into full citizens will only result in influx to capture our already-limited social, economic and political spaces,” a spokesperson of one of the organisations said.

The JPC’s three-day hearing in Assam since Monday saw the State being divided on the issue. While almost all organisations and non-BJP political parties in Assamese-speaking Brahmaputra Valley opposed the bill, the Bengali-speaking Barak Valley supported it.

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