Massive reactions amid the visit of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to Assam that began its hearing in Guwahati today to take into account feedback from political parties, apolitical organizations, other groups and individuals over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, that seeks to allow migrants from certain minority communities living in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship. In other words, the Bill, if ratified by Parliament and converted into an act, will pave the way for granting citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshi migrants, something various groups and organizations of Assam have been opposing tooth and nail.

The AGP, an ally of the ruling BJP-led coalition government in Assam, opposed the bill with former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta making the first representation before the JPC at the Assam Administrative Staff College in Khanapara, Guwahati. Other AGP leaders, including Atul Borah, Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhushan Choudhury, all ministers of the Sarbannada Sonowal-led cabinet, also opposed the bill, claiming the provisions of the bill seek to dilute clauses of the Assam Accord and that under no circumstance will the AGP agree to any foreigner irrespective of their faith to be granted citizenship and “dumped in Assam”.

“We have made a strong case before the JPC team, claiming that the contents of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, seeks to dilute the Assam Accord and that they go against the spirit of the historic document. It will threaten the very existence of Assam and the people of the State,” Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said.

“Despite being a part of the ruling coalition, we have been making our stand clear time and again. We are against this bill and will continue to oppose it. No Bangladeshi national entering Assam after March 25, 1971, can stay in Assam whatever faith he or she professes,” AGP president Atul Borah, also the Assam Agriculture minister, told News Live.

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Leaders of other political parties, apolitical organizations and individuals also made their representations before the JPC that will also conduct another hearing at Silchar tomorrow and the day after.

There was also resentment among various groups and organizations over the holding of the public hearing at Silchar while other towns in eastern and North Assam were not selected for a similar excercise.

“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is a direct assault on the historic Assam Accord. It will threaten the existence of the indigenous people of Assam. Assam cannot afford to take the burden of any more Bangladeshi national. We oppose the BJP government’s move to grant citizenship rights to Hindu Bangladeshis,” senior journalist and former AJYCP president Adip Kumar Phukan said.

Over 100 organizations and individuals are expected to submit their representations before the JPC during today’s public hearing.