The Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA does not violate the Assam Accord, said Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
He was taking part in in the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s Address in the Legislative Assembly on Monday evening.
“CAA will not violate the Assam Accord, rather it will help in taking care of and resolving one of the many unresolved issues,” Sarma reiterated.
“These issues were not addressed during the time of the Accord’s signing,” the finance minister further added.
“There is a lot of wrong notions regarding 1971 as the cut-off date,” Sarma said.
“The Clause 5 of the Assam Accord mentions all persons who came to Assam prior to January 1, 1966, including those amongst them whose name appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections, shall be regularized,” Sarma said.
“For purposes of detection and deletion of foreigners, January 1, 1966, shall be the base date and year,” he reiterated.
“The Assam Accord was not an all-encompassing document and even the NRC update was not part of it,” Sarma further said.
“Updating the NRC evolved as a concept post-Assam Accord,” Sarma further said.
“The NRC was one of the unresolved issues of the Assam Accord,” he reiterated.
“Hence, the Assam Accord was not full-proof and it has evolved over time,” he further added.
“The Assam Accord was silent on issues like the status of children of the post-1971 illegal immigrants, which again was an unresolved issue,” he added.
“Similarly, the Assam Accord spoke about giving considerations to the difficulties regarding the IM (DT) Act and not about repeal or scrapping of that Act,” he added.
“In such a circumstance, the scrapping of the IM (DT) Act could also have been considered as a violation of the Assam Accord,” Sarma added.
“Similarly, the Assam Accord failed to resolve the issue of differentiating between economic migrants and those who have entered the country on account of religious persecution,” the minister added.
“This particular unresolved issue will now be resolved with the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act,” Sarma reiterated.
“The Citizenship Act was amended by the Congress in 1987 and 1992 facilitating children of foreigners to become Indian citizens,” Sarma said.
“The discrepancy was only resolved when it was again amended in 2003,” Sarma added.
“Similarly, the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the IM (DT) Act resolved that point. Now we have addressed another unresolved issue, that of Hindu Bangladeshis,” the minister added.
“Which Clause of the Assam Accord states that 1971 is the cut-off date?” the minister asked.
“As per Clause 5 of the Accord for purposes of detection and deletion of foreigners, January 1, 1966, shall be the base date and year,” he said.
“It also states that all persons who came to Assam prior to January 1, 1996, including those amongst them whose name appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections, shall be regularized,” the minister added.
“It also states that foreigners who came to Assam after January 1, 1966, up to March 24, 1971, shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964,” he said.
He said that those who came to Assam between 1966 and before March 25, 1971, have to declare themselves and then their names will have to be removed from the electoral rolls for a period of 10 years.
“Only after that can such people again claim full benefits of being citizens,” he added.
“Clause 5 clearly points to 1967 as the cut-off date,” Sarma further said.
“So how did we fix 1971 as the base year for the NRC when the Assam Accord clearly mentioned the Voters’ List of 1967?” he questioned.
“Where was the need for legacy data for the NRC? If only we had properly read Clause 5 there would have been no need for NRC,” Sarma said.
“The 1967 Voters’ List could have been the NRC,” the minister reiterated.
“We are not violating the Assam Accord. We are only solving one of the unresolved parts of the Assam Accord,” he further said.
Quashing claims that CAA will threaten Assamese culture, Sarma said, “CAA seeks to grant citizenship to five lakh Bengali Hindus.”
“These five lakh Bengali Hindus cannot threaten the future of the Assamese community,” he added.