NEW DELHI: Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday held discussions here with Chief Ministers, leaders of political parties and civil society organisations of Northeast states on the contours of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The meetings with Shah were attended by Chief Ministers of Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh Sarbananda Sonowal, Conrad Sangma and Pema Khandu respectively.
Sources present during the discussions told The Sunday Guardian that Shah assured the leaders that northeastern states with Inner Line Permit (ILP) and tribal areas under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution will be exempted from the purview of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which includes Article 244(2) and Article 275, deals with the administration of tribal areas in four Northeast states, namely Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur. Three northeastern states—Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram— have the ILP system which ensures that no one, including Indian citizens, can enter these states without prior official travel documents being issued.
Speaking to the media after discussions with the Home Minister, Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary of the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), said, “Home Minister Amit Shah briefed all the leaders about the Citizenship Amendment Bill and we are convinced and satisfied after the assurance of the Home minister.” Daimary also said that there is nothing to worry about the Bill as it will do no harm to indigenous people of Assam.
“Amit Shah has also assured that Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord will be implemented to safeguard the interests of the indigenous population of Assam,” he added.
Clause 6 of the Assam Accord reads as follows: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
The Central government has already constituted a high-level committee to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord under the chairmanship of Gauhati High Court Judge (retd) Biplab Kumar Sarma. The committee is likely to submit its report in the next two to three months and soon after the submission of its report, the Centre will implement it, a source said.
Saturday’s meetings with Shah were important as people of Northeast states have been opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill which they think will pose a threat to the indigenous culture of the region. Through the Bill, the Centre is seeking to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who come to India due to religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, even if they don’t possess proper documents.