Congress, PPA demand all-party meeting on Citizenship Amendment Bill

ITANAGAR, May 24: Scoffing at Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s statement on 23 May regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) and the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) on Thursday demanded an all-party meeting to discuss the bill.
On Wednesday, the chief minister had said that Arunachal does not have to worry about the bill as the state is protected by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1873 and various other acts.
The APCC said that the CM’s statement on the bill after his long spell of “maun vrat (vow of silence)” was “ridiculous and illogical, and an attempt to divert the issue.”
The party reminded Pema that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the BEFR “are two different acts,” and accused the CM of attempting to weaken the BEFR by proposing to exempt foreign tourists from the protected area permit (PAP) system.
“He was the person who approached the ministry of home affairs for exemption of PAP in border areas of the state for foreign tourists. Accordingly, the ministry of home affairs showed interest in exemption of PAP,” the APCC said in a communiqué.
“His statement of saving the state through the BEFR is doubtful and questionable,” the APCC reiterated, and questioned Pema’s “tall claim” that even citizens of India cannot enter Arunachal Pradesh without inner line permits (ILP).
“His statement is unconvincing when the Chakmas, Hajongs and Tibetans (who are foreigners) already enjoy all the liberties in our state without ILPs,” the APCC said, adding that the present state government had taken no action till date to “execute the PAP and the RAP.”
The Congress claimed that the chief minister’s statement was a “well-planned conspiracy” to sidestep the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
While the APCC lauded the “strong and open statements” of the Assam and Meghalaya governments against the bill, it scoffed at the Pema-led BJP government for not insisting with the Joint Parliamentary Committee to visit Arunachal.
The PPA also said that Pema’s statement reflected his “callous attitude” towards one of the most controversial bills ever, and demanded discussions and strong resolutions against the bill.
Regarding the BEFR safeguarding the interests of the indigenous people of Arunachal, the PPA said that the government of India had promulgated the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950, to pave way for deportation of foreign nationals entering India illegally but it was never strictly implemented in Assam.
“Merely depending on the BEFR without a sincere attitude to protect and preserve it (in Arunachal) with the true spirit of a son of the soil may cause the act to gradually lose its relevance just as the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act,” said the PPA.
It also questioned the CM’s silence on the bill during his attendance at the third conclave of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) held in Guwahati on 20 May.
During the conclave, the Asom Gana Parishad, a constituent of the NEDA, expressed its view in the presence of BJP national president Amit Shah that the people of Assam would never accept the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act.
“It is unfortunate that while the chief ministers of neighbouring states like Assam, Meghalaya and even Bihar can vociferously resist the implementation of the bill in the region, the chief minister of Arunachal gives a very casual attitude towards it,” the PPA said.
The PPA demanded elaborate discussions and debate on the bill by all 60 legislators of the state, and urged the government to come out with a “tough legislation” on Chakma, Hajong and Tibetan refugees and other illegal immigrants/migrants, with provision for severe penalty for those who harbour refugees and illegal migrants.
“The chief minister must know that the spark of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill could potentially burn down the entire Northeast region if neglected,” it said.