Monday, January 25, 2021
North East

Will drop citizenship bill if Ulfa(I) joins mainstream, says Assam minister Sarma

GUWAHATI, November 25: Countering the charge that youths in Assam are joining the banned Ulfa(I) in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, health minister and convener of BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) said the armed outfit chief Paresh Baruah should ensure that he will join mainstream if the proposed legislation is withdrawn.
“I want to ask Paresh Barua will he or those youths who have joined Ulfa (I) join the mainstream if the bill is scrapped. I am saying with full responsibility that we will drop the bill only if Baruah come back to the mainstream.
Now the question is will he (Baruah) really join the mainstream,” Sarma told reporters here on Sunday.
Sarma said an impression is being created by vested groups that youths are joining the banned outfit only because of the bill.
“This is not at all true. Did no one join Ulfa before the bill? Economic reasons like lack of proper job opportunity could be the reason for youths joining Ulfa, but not because of the bill. We admit that we have to do a lot in terms of creating sufficient employment opportunities. But if an atmosphere of unrest is created on the bill, all the development works started by our government will be hampered,” Sarma said The bill, currently reviewed by the joint parliamentary committee, is opposed by several organizations including BJP’s ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on the ground that Assam would be swamped by migrants from Bangladesh.
The bill seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have taken shelter in India till December 31, 2014.
Baruah reacted to Sarma’s remark that Ulfa(I) will only sit for talks with the government if the issue of sovereignty is part of the dialogue.
Ulfa (I) had termed the bill anti-Assamese, while pro-talk Ulfa leader Anup Chetia after killing of five Bengalispeaking persons in Tinsukia’s Dhola earlier this month warned that the bill if passed will lead many youths to take to arms. Last week police confirmed that Ulfa(I) chief’s nephew Munna joined the armed outfit, while earlier at least eight youths have joined . This fresh joining came at a time when the state is witnessing large-scale protests against the bill.
“Did anyone care to meet mothers who lost her son to Ulfa(I)? We lost so many Assamese youths who joined Ulfa(I) and killed in encounters with security forces. Do we want to go back to a situation of the 1990s (the height of Ulfa(I) insurgency? It is unfortunate that some sections are trying to create an atmosphere of the 1990s with the bill,” Sarma said. (TNN)