A SENIOR Assam Police officer said Sunday that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill — proposed by the Union government — has given “a fresh lease of life” to the activities of the United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent), the militant outfit suspected by police to be behind the killing of five farmers in Tinsukia district recently.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Special DGP (Special Branch) of the Assam Police, Pallab Bhattacharyya, said the proposed Bill has led to a new rift between the state’s Assamese- and Bengali-speaking communities, in turn fomenting trouble. The top officer also added that the recent publication of unverified news reports regarding the death of the chief of the ULFA(I), Paresh Barua, could add to the tension.
“The faultline between Assamese- and Bengali-speakers in the state is a historical one and the proposed Bill has added fuel to it. There was trouble during the language movement of the 1960s and then were was some trouble initially during the Assam movement. But then it had subsided. Now again it has come up,” the officer said.
At the same time, Bhattacharyya denied media reports of “large scale recruitment by the ULFA(I)”. “Since September 1, eight persons have joined the ULFA(I) in Udalguri and Tinsukia districts. Some others have been apprehended. This is the figure we have now,” he said.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill essentially proposes to make minority (or non-Muslim) immigrants from three neighbouring countries, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, eligible for Indian citizenship. As per the 1985 Assam Accord, simply put, any person who came into Assam after midnight of March 24, 1971, would be identified as a foreigner. Consequently a clause was inserted in the Citizenship Act,1955. But the proposed Bill is seen to violate the Accord by differentiating between migrants on the basis of their religion.
While Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley is opposed to the Bill, large sections of the society in the state’s Bengali-dominated Barak Valley region have extended their support to it.