Proposed citizenship bill may derail peace talks, says Anup Chetia

Proposed citizenship bill may derail peace talks, says Anup Chetia
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Guwahati, May 22: The Centre’s plan to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from three neighbouring countries could derail the peace talks with insurgent groups in Assam, Anup Chetia, the general secretary of United Liberation Front of Assam (Progressive) said.
“If they pass the [Citizenship (Amendment)] Bill, then it will definitely affect the peace talks,” the leader of the pro-talk faction of the insurgent group said.
The government’s proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill proposes that Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists, Christians and Jains from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh would not be treated as illegal immigrants, paving the way for them being granted citizenship after six years of stay in India.
The bill has drawn sharp reaction from several indigenous groups across the north-east with many in Assam stating that the proposal to grant citizenship to ‘Bangladeshi Hindus’ violates the Assam Accord of 1985.
“We are with the people of Assam. We know that if this bill is passed the Assamese indigenous people would become a minority. They will lose their identity and their culture,” Chetia said, adding that the amended act could just be a “political game” being played by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power both in the
Centre and Assam. He, however, said that the scrapping of the bill was not in the charter of demands presented by them to the government since “the issue came up recently”.
The pro-talk ULFA faction, led by its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, had held a meeting with Centre’s interlocutor AB Mathur in New Delhi on May 21 to take the peace dialogue forward.
Chetia said the peace talks with the government were “on their way to the final stages,” even as some points of contention remain, including the “land policy, rehabilitation of ULFA cadres, and information on its cadre who went missing” during the security forces operations against the insurgent group in 2004. (Agencies)