Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal addressing a press conference in Agartala after the Supreme Court’s verdict on Rafale deal  Credit: EastMojo image

Guwahati: With the state erupting in protests over the BJP government’s stance on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday reiterated that the interests of indigenous people will not be harmed and claimed that misinformation was being spread about the bill, causing disharmony.

Sonowal also appealed to all those opposing the bill to support the Centre’s “pragmatic steps” for implementing the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

Inaugurating a branch of Auniati Satra at Bandardewa in Lakhimpur district of the state, Sonowal spoke about a misinformation campaign against the bill, “While people pay utmost respect to movements led by the non-violent values of Mahatma Gandhi, misinformation always lends negative impact in society and such campaigns are always discarded by people.”

Trying to alleviate fears among the Assamese people, he explained that even if the bill was enacted as law, no one will get citizenship automatically, as one has to apply to the concerned district’s deputy commissioner, who will then review and forward it to a competent authority to make the applicant an Indian national.

Talking about the recent high-power committee set up by the Centre to implement the Clause 6 of the Assam accord, Sonowal said, “Though several governments came to power in the state as well as the Centre after the signing of Assam Accord in 1985, no government had made any tangible effort to implement Clause 6 of the Accord, safeguarding the constitutional, legislative, administrative interests of the indigenous people. But, the present central government has for the first time taken pragmatic steps for implementation of Clause 6 by constituting a high-level committee and also taking steps for granting ST status to six communities of the state.”

Meanwhile, the Sadou Asam Karmachari Parishad, a recognised government employee’s body, also extended its support to the ongoing agitation led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) against the bill, and warned that the Centre will solely be responsible for any untoward situation due to the protests.

The bill, which has led to the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a major ally of the BJP in Assam, walking out of its alliance with the saffron party, was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8. It seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India, even if they do not possess any document, instead of the 12 years residency needed otherwise.

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