Centre receives setback on Assam Citizenship Bill as Committee Chairman drops out

Guwahati: In the latest setback to the centre on Assam Citizenship Bill, Chairman of the high-level committee to implement Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord M P Bezbaruah has refused to be a part of the panel. With this, he has become the fifth of its nine members to drop out. He said that without the presence of those members the committee “becomes defunct”. The members resigned in protest against the government going ahead with the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, which violates one of the basic provisions of the Assam Accord.

Union Cabinet has recently announced the high-level Committee. Bezbaruah is also former Union tourism secretary. Bezbaruah has been a part of several government-appointed panels.

Indian Express quoted him as saying, “I have informed the Home Ministry about my decision. It is untenable for me to continue in the committee when the representatives of the civil society have refused to be a part of it. Being the head of a committee without civil society members does not make any sense.”

The legislation seeks to grant citizenship to immigrants belonging to minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians (essentially non-Muslims) from neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12, even if they don’t possess proper documents. This is available to all those who have entered India till December 31, 2014. In contrast, the 1985 Assam Accord provides for deportation of anyone, irrespective of religion, who has come to the state after March 24, 1971.