NEW DELHI, April 10 - Amidst growing uncertainty following massive protests in Assam, the meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, scheduled to be held here on April 12, has been postponed to April 17.
Confirming the development, a member of the Committee Ramen Deka told this newspaper that the meeting was postponed on the request of some of the MPs and groups, who wanted the meeting to be held after the Bihu festival. He said a formal communication in this regard was conveyed by chairman of the Committee Rajendra Agarwal.
The JPC had invited 28 organisations from Assam for the public hearing, which will be the second such hearing of parties from Assam. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and 26 other organisations representing different ethnic groups of the State, had given a joint memorandum to the JPC but only a few of the organisations have been called for the hearing, they alleged.
Earlier the JPC, which got two extensions from the Parliament had deliberated on various issues related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and heard representations of a number of civil society groups. The committee took note of the representation and views of groups belonging to Sindhi, Bengali and Gujarati communities on how to go about the proposed amendments in the legislation.
The Committee, which has so far visited Gujarat and Rajasthan, was scheduled to visit Assam, Odisha and West Bengal. Agarwal last week told newsmen that he proposed to visit Assam soon.
Meanwhile, Sushmita Dev, Lok Sabha MP of the Congress and member of the JPC, on Tuesday alleged that the postponement of the hearing is a ploy of the BJP Government. The chairman of the Committee is not at all bothered about the cultural event of Assam. That is why he convened a public hearing in the middle of the Bihu festival, she claimed.
Dev further alleged that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal differed with the RSS on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. She alleged that the BJP is not at all serious about the Bill but is busy playing politics on the issue.
Talking to newsmen, she maintained that there is no provision in the proposed Bill to grant citizenship but only to accord refugee status to the affected people. She claimed that BJP leaders in Barak Valley have been propagating that the Bill would grant citizenship to Hindu Bengalis of Assam.
Meanwhile, the Centre is yet to reply to the questions posed by a few MPs on the explanations given by Constitutional experts that the proposal to grant Indian citizenship on the basis of religion is violation of the Constitutional provisions.
The original Citizenship Act, passed in 1955, defines the concept of Indian citizenship, and lists out ways to acquire the same, explicitly denying citizenship to all undocumented migrants.