Patriotic People’s Front Assam calls for genuine space to citizenship debates

Guwahati, April 23: Expressing concern over creating sentiments with unhealthy debates and aggressive attacks over organisations, which have reportedly supported the centre’s initiative to amend the citizenship laws at the Joint Parliamentary Committee hearing in New Delhi recently, the Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) insists on rational debates over the pertinent issue.

The forum, in a statement issued to the media, claims that a section of Assamese intellectuals and civil society groups have tried their best to project the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 in a bias perception as if the whole initiative is Assam centric.

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“Those biased individuals have made the hue and cry that once it turns into a law, millions of Bengali Hindu people from Bangladesh would be dumped into Assam and the practice will continue for decades. So, whoever supports the initiative, (s)he should be termed as Jatidrohi (read anti Assamese)” said the statement issued by the front.

They cleverly avoided the  fact that  those asylum seekers are not merely Bengali Hindus, but also a mix of Rajbongshi, Hajong, Jaintia, Bishnupuriya, Chakma, Garo, Khasi and Adivasi people among others. Moreover, all these people became the victims of Pakistan’s partition game plan and had to live in a foreign land, for the creation of which they were not at all responsible, added the statement.

It also clarifies that the initiative is meant to allow citizenship for those Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian, Jain and Parsi community refugees, who were persecuted because of their religions practices in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and had already taken shelter in India prior to December 31, 2014, and there is no provision to bring more Bangladeshi (or Pakistani and Afghan national) after the said date.

Extending supports to the initiative, the PPFA demanded that the asylum seekers from the neighbouring countries must be distributed judiciously across the country. Moreover, those who prefer to stay legally in Assam, they should  adopt the Assamese language as their medium of instruction, the forum asserted.

“Adopting the Assamese language as the medium of official language by those settlers would help in promoting the Assamese culture and also contributing for a stronger and safer India. Their goodwill will also remove the linguistic threat perception hunting the indigenous populace of Assam” the statement pointed out.

The Patriotic People’s Front Assam also reiterated its old stand to detect all illegal immigrants from the then East Pakistan (and later Bangladesh) with the cut-off year of 1951 as it is applicable to the entire nation. It argued that the spirit of the Assam Movement (1979 to 1985) was to deport all foreigners since 1951, for which over 850 martyrs – Khargeswar Talukdar being the first – sacrificed their lives.

The forum also claims that the immigrants who entered India between 1951 and December 16, 1971 should be treated as East Pakistani nationals, as Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign nation only after December 16, 1971 (not March 25, 1971 as often reported in the media) following the surrender of Pakistani forces under the leadership of AAK Niazi to the Muktijoddhas (forces of Bangladesh freedom struggle).

It clarified that Bangla father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman only declared the independence of Bangladesh on March 25, 1971 but till December 16 of the year, the land was very much under the Pakistani authority and hence it cannot be termed as Bangladesh (so the residents as Bangladeshi nationals), the statement added.

Finally, the PPFA statement concluded that if the deportation of illegitimate immigrants becomes impossible (or very difficult) because of serious humanitarian and international crisis, the Union government in New Delhi should think about offering work permits (without voting rights) for them to resolve the issue amicably.

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