Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, Sept 9 - The Chief Ministers of Meghalaya and Nagaland, among others, today raised concerns over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) during the 4th conclave of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) here.
Neiphiu Rio, Conrad Sangma
Addressing the conclave, Nagaland Chief Minister and president of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) Neiphiu Rio said that there is apprehension that the CAB, if implemented, will change the demography of the North East.
He added that the regional parties of the North East had earlier taken a resolution against the CAB.
BJP national president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah was present at the event, along with senior leaders of all NEDA constituents.
Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) president Conrad Sangma said people in the north-eastern states have apprehension regarding the CAB.
Sangma said that there was also concern that if the CAB is passed then people from Bangladesh may keep entering India indefinitely.
“Will there be a cut-off date? Will decision on citizenship be taken by the States or will the Centre bypass us? Will the laws related to the ILP and the Sixth Schedule be applicable once the CAB is implemented? We are worried. Those things should be clarified,” Sangma said, adding that more discussions and deliberations are needed in this regard.
He said that other North Eastern States are apprehensive that some among the 19 lakh people whose names were not in the final NRC of Assam may try to move to these States and called for ways to tackle any such possibility.
Sangma claimed that the North East region has seen lots of positive changes since the NDA came to power.
“There was a time when the Central leaders and ministers did not even knew the names of the North Eastern States and their capitals. The people of the North East are very emotional. We need respect... Now the people of the North East are getting respect. There was a time when we were ignored. But not anymore. The change is evident,” he said.
He said that the constituents of the NEDA should take each other into confidence and rued the fact that in some states of the North East ruled by other constituents of the platform, the NPP MLAs and members are not taken into confidence.
Speaking on the occasion, NEDA convenor and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the NEDA has succeeded in making the North East “Congress-mukt”.
“This is a historic moment for the North Eastern region. The eight Chief Ministers of the region present here today are all from non-Congress parties and they are all part of a single political platform... We must make it a permanent feature,” he said.
Sarma said that the North East has made rapid progress since the NDA took charge in New Delhi and added that all NEDA partners must strive together to find solutions to various problems afflicting this region. In this regard, he specifically mentioned the inter-state boundary disputes among some states of the North East.
He added that the people of Assam have some genuine concerns regarding the final NRC.
Pointing out that some North Eastern States have expressed certain apprehensions with regard to Inner Line Permit, tribal laws and Sixth Schedule in case the CAB comes into effect, Sarma called for constructive discussions among the NEDA constituents to remove such doubts.
Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary called upon the BJP central leadership to ensure that Sarbananda Sonowal continue as the Chief Minister of Assam and not to replace him.
Mohilary, who also heads the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), said that the constituents of the ruling alliance will contest the BTC polls in 2020 and the Assembly elections in Assam in 2021 together.
“BTC polls are going to be held in April 2020. AGP, BJP and BPF will fight the polls together. And don’t worry. In 2021 the BJP-led government will return to power in Assam. In Delhi also the NDA government will remain in power for another 20 years. But I do not know what will happen after that,” said Mohilary, in a lighter tone.
He then called upon Shah to ensure that Sonowal continue as the Chief Minister.
“Do not change Sonowal. Keep him the Chief Minister,” Mohilary said, much to the amusement and applause from the audience.
Mohilary then went a step further and urged the Centre to give Rs 1,00,000 crore as flood relief to Assam.
Speaking about the insurgency problem in Assam and rest of the North East, Mohilary called upon the Central government to fast-track the ongoing peace talks with the NDFB (P).
He also said that if the Home Ministry gives permission then he would be willing to engage other underground outfits, which are still active in the BTAD region, and will try to bring them to the negotiating table.
Mohilary also said that the Tiwa Autonomous Council, the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council and the Mising Autonomous Council should be upgraded and brought under the Sixth Schedule.
AGP president and Agriculture Minister Atul Bora said that his party is not satisfied with the final NRC published recently.
“We are demanding re-verification. We want all foreigners out of the NRC and we want names of all Indian citizens included in the register,” he said.
Bora hoped that the Centre’s decision to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will be successful.
Among others who spoke on the occasion were Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of State for DoNER Jitendra Singh, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, IPFT leader and Tripura Minister NC Debbarma and United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Bindo Lanong.