Kiren Rijiju’s statement on immigrants ahead of NRC publication stirs controversy in Assam’s political scenario

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At a time when whole of Assam is reeling under the pressure of implementing the much debated Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and awaiting the outcome of National Register of Citizens (NRC) final draft, a certain statement from Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju on the legality of immigrants have stirred much controversy and outrage in Assam’s political environment.

On Wednesday, speaking at the Rajya Sabha, Rijiju said that all immigrants who came to India before December 31, 2014 are not illegal and should be allowed to stay in the country.

Rijiju said that minorities, who are Christian, Hindu, Jain, Parsi, Sikh, Buddhist from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, are not illegal immigrants in India if they have stepped into the country before December 31, 2014.

The statement has been received with lots of criticism in Assam as this directly goes against the ethos of Assam Accord. The state has been fighting a lengthy battle to validate the existence of Assam Accord, which states that any immigrants who came to Assam post March 25, 1971 will be declared as illegal.

Reacting to Rijiju’s comments, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) Minister Keshab Mahanta said that we have been opposing the Bill and will continue to do so in future too. Another AGP MLA Satyabrata Kalita said that if the BJP government continues to make statements which are against the interest of the people of Assam, the honeymoon alliance between BJP and AGP will not last long.

While two AGP MLAs Mrinal Saikia and Prasanta Phukan avoided from making any comments on the statement, AGP President Atul Bora termed the statement as unfortunate.

Former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi reacting to the statement said that if the Central Government continues with this decision, the existence of NRC will have no validity.

AASU General Secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi said, “We don’t know about rest of India, but comparing Assam’s issues with foreigners is not same as that of other parts in India. We condemn this and Assam will not take the burden of immigrants coming to the State after March 25, 1971. We want to state this to the government that Assam is not a dumping ground”.

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