NEW DELHI, April 13 - The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, headed by Rajendra Agarwal, is likely to visit Assam in May next. This was conveyed by the Chairman to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal when they met on Thursday night.
Talking to this newspaper, Sonowal said he has invited Agarwal to visit Assam to get a feeling of ground realities prevailing in the State. The Chief Minister said he has also requested the Chairman to visit both the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley. Accordingly, it was agreed that the JPC will tour Guwahati and Silchar, he added.
Stating that the meeting was cordial, Sonowal said the Chairman informed him that the Committee would also tour Meghalaya and Tripura after visiting Assam.
The JPC, under the previous Chairman Satyapal Singh, had finalised a schedule to visit Assam but cancelled it at the last moment.
The Chief Minister’s meeting with the Chairman assumes significance because there was confusion over the Committee’s tour to Assam, as several members of the Committee expressed their doubt claiming that the State government was not keen on having the Committee in the State fearing law-and-order situation.
There is stiff opposition to the Bill in the Brahmaputra Valley, while in the Barak Valley, there is a surge of support for the Bill. The ruling BJP government is in a fix over the issue of granting citizenship rights to the Hindu Bengalis, which has been opposed by several organisations in the Brahmaputra Valley.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and 26 ethnic groups have already registered their opposition to the proposed Bill in an earlier hearing here.
Owing to the sharp division and the prevailing uncertainty, the term of the JPC had to be extended twice and the Chairman was changed meanwhile.
Adding to the growing confusion, the JPC’s public hearing on the Bill, to be held on April 12, was postponed. The meeting is now scheduled to be held here on April 17.
The first meeting under the new Chairman held on January 3 had decided to take legal opinion on the writ petition pending before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.
Altogether 13 issues relating to validity of the Assam Accord and Clause 6A of the Citizenship Act were referred to the Constitution Bench.