Narendra Modi. File
The Northeast remained on the edge on Thursday as protests continued against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019. In a related development, the Bangladesh foreign minister cancelled a scheduled visit to Delhi. And in the first legal challenge to the new law, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) approached the Supreme Court in a bid to get the legislation annulled.
In the midst of these developments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to calm nerves of people in the Northeast, especially Assam.”I assure every state of the East and Northeast. The traditions, culture, language etc of Assam and other states will not be affected at all.
“Central government will work with state governments for your development. Don’t be misled by Congress’s statements,” he said at a rally in Jharkhand where elections to the state assembly are being held.
“There are attempts to fuel tensions in the Northeast. Most of the region is out of the ambit of this bill but politics of Congress and its allies depends on illegal immigrants. Don’t be misled by Congress.
“I assure every state of East & Northeast - the traditions, culture, language etc of Assam & other states won’t be affected,” Modi said.
He also said that the BJP, since coming to power, has delivered on its promises. “We had promised that we will peacefully solve the long standing Ayodhya issue, which the Congress was deliberately blocking.
“Now as you can see, the path for construction of a grand Ram Temple is open,” he said.
People across the country have faith on BJP as it delivers on its promises, he added.
In a swift reaction, the Congress tweeted: “Our brothers and sisters in Assam cannot read your ‘reassuring’ message. Modiji, in case you’ve forgotten, their internet has been cut off.”
In a strongly-worded statement issued immediately after the bill was passed, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it marks a “dark day” in the constitutional history of India and is a “victory of narrow minded and bigoted forces” over the country’s pluralism.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said that the Bill is an attempt by the government to “ethnically cleanse” the northeast region. “I stand in solidarity with the people of the North East and am at their service,” he had tweeted.
The Congress was planning to focus on the new law as they stage its massive protest titled ‘Bharat Bachao Rally’ in New Delhi on Dec.14.
The Congress will raise issues of economic recession, high unemployment rates, rising prices of essential commodities and consumer goods, rising atrocities against women and minorities and the agrarian crisis.
Protesters in Assam say it goes against the Assam accord of 1985, which set the date of detection and deportation of foreigners as March 1971 (compared to 1951 for other states). Many fear that the new bill will burden the state with more immigrants from Bangladesh.
Dhaka hasn’t explained why Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen cancelled his visit hours before he was to land in the national capital to participate in Delhi Dialogue, an event hosted by the foreign ministry.
Memon was quoted as saying: “There are very few countries in the world where communal harmony is as good as in Bangladesh. We have no minorities. We are all equal. If he [Amit Shah] stayed in Bangladesh for a few months, he would see the exemplary communal harmony in our country.”
The reference is to the Indian claim that Hindus are persecuted in Bangladesh, observers say.
Meanwhile in the first legal challenge to the new law, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) filed a writ petition against it in the Supreme Court. In its petition, the IUML has pleaded the top court to declare the Citizenship Amendment Bill as “illegal and void.”
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal will be representing the party in the court. The IUML had earlier said it would challenge the bill in the apex court once it is passed by Parliament as it asserted that the legislation violates Article 14 of the Constitution by bringing in religion-based citizenship.