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Centre to take further steps on citizenship Bill only after consultations

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chairing a meeting attended by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and senior officials of the Central and State governments, in New Delhi on Wednesday. – UB Photos
 NEW DELHI, May 30 - In an apparent attempt to pacify frayed tempers in Assam, the Centre today said that any further steps regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will be taken only after thorough consultations with all stakeholders and efforts will be made to address the concerns of the State’s people in this regard.

The agreement was hammered out at a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The meeting that lasted for about one-and-a-half-hour and held at the North Block was also attended by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Director Intelligence Bureau Rajiv Jain, Registrar General of India Sri Sailesh and Joint Director (North-east) Satyendra Garg, among others.

Sonowal was accompanied by Assam Chief Secretary TY Das, Director General of Police Kuladhar Saikia, Additional Chief Secretary Aloke Kumar, Special DGP Pallab Bhattacharyya, Principal Secretary (Home) LS Changsan, besides NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela.

The meeting today sought to tackle the twin issues of impasse over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and apprehension among the Bengali Hindus about being left out in large numbers from the NRC.

On the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Union Home Minister assured that the people of Assam will be taken into confidence before any step is taken, Sonowal told newsmen here later.

The Chief Minister said as per his request to the Home Minister, the Centre has also decided to set up a committee to make recommendations for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord that provides for constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguard to protect preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

The Union Home Minister assured the Chief Minister that the committee would be set up at the earliest in consultation with the State government, sources said.

While the Centre opted to tread cautiously on the issue of the citizenship Bill by assuring that all stakeholders would be consulted before making the next move, the Hindu Bengalis were assured that adequate opportunity would be given to the people to dispose of claims and objections.

In the meeting it was emphasized that adequate opportunity would be given to people and necessary arrangements would be made to avoid inconvenience to public and it should be ensured that claims and objections are disposed of as per law and in a proper manner, Home Ministry sources said.

The meeting decided to launch a strong campaign to inform people about the process of filing claims and objections after the publication of the final draft NRC. The move follows apprehension in the BJP and RSS that names of a large number of Hindu Bengalis were left out of the NRC, particularly in the Barak valley.

Sonowal said the Centre has agreed to extend all necessary assistance to maintain the law and order situation in the State. The Centre will also extend necessary cooperation to the Assam government to tackle the security aspect.

“The people of Assam should not feel alarmed because the Union Home Minister has assured us all the help... In the coming days, we will do all work taking the people into confidence,” he said, adding the Government of India and the Government of Assam have been undertaking NRC update work sincerely.

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