Asom Songrami Morcha petitions UN over CAA

In an interview to Shiv Sena MP and Saamana Executive Editor, Sanjay Raut, Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray said the Shiv Sena will support the CAA, and that it’s not “a draconian law”. In the same breadth, he said that the party is opposed to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that will “affect the Hindus”.

Coinciding with that, Asom Songrami Morcha, a platform for civil society activists has warned, “Movement against Citizenship Amendment Act would be bigger than the 1980’s Assam students agitation”.

The Assam Students movement was led by All Assam Students Union and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad. There were protests to compel government to identify and expel Bangladeshi immigrants. The Nellie massacre was extreme case of violence during the agitation. The result was that over 800 people sacrificed their lives during the agitation.

Diganta Konwar, President of Asom Songrami Morcha in an email to Tehelka said that the Asom Songrami Morcha has sent three petitions to different bodies on February 5. He alleged that “the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is not only discriminatory nature and against the spirit of our Constitution but also posing a grave danger to the identity and existence of the indigenous people of North East India and Assam in particular”.

He went on to state that in spite of wide spread spontaneous democratic protests by general public, various organizations and citizen forums, the Government of India is very much adamant to go ahead with CAA. Konwar said, “As this Act (CAA) deals with the matter related to “Refugee” from other countries due to persecution, this not an internal matter of India and therefore, needs to be considered its compliance and validity under the obligation of the Charter of the United Nations and various International Human Rights instruments”.

The Asom Songrami Mancha, a registered regional political organization of Assam has submitted petitions at various organizations of United Nations-United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Secretariat of Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights and requested intervention of the United Nations Organization. The petitions urge to consider compatibility and validity of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 under the spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to confirm religious persecution and fulfillment of subjectively genuineness and objectively reasonable ground and to issue ‘Refugee Certificate’ to all eligible religiously persecuted persons without any discrimination under supervision of UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). The petitions further demand to ensure that the language, culture, demographics and economic well being of the indigenous population of Assam is protected as per the principles of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It has demanded that “India does not need a controversial xenophobic Act like CAA; rather it needs a comprehensive Refugee Policy with strict compliance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

The petition sent as reference no. SM/FEB/20/04 on February 5, 2020 to the Chairperson Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch, Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues United Nations Secretariat says there is a grave danger from the recently promulgated Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 to the identity and existence of the indigenous people of North East India and Assam in particular. In view of the situation and circumstances it has requested intervention of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to consider validity of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 under the spirit of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It has demanded confirmation of religious persecution and fulfillment of subjectively genuineness and objectively reasonable ground and issuance of Refugee Certificates to all eligible religiously persecuted persons without any discrimination under supervision of UNHCR to ensure that the language, culture, demographics and economic wellbeing of the indigenous population of Assam is protected as per the principles of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Another petition is addressed to the High Commissioner, office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights and the third one to the Chief of Mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a related development, an unprecedented huge influx of hundreds of Hindu families from Pakistan crossing over to the Indian side in the last few weeks from the Wagha-Attari border in Punjab has taken place post the CAA. Significantly, Punjab Assembly has already moved against the CAA. For record, there is Congress government in Punjab. Even the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal has difference of opinion with its bigger ally BJP on the issue of CAA.

According to sources, in excess of 300 such Hindu families have entered Punjab after CAA was implemented. These Hindu visitors have moved in with valid visitor visas. The influx of so many Hindu families in groups at the time the CAA was being implemented has given rise to speculations that these visitors might choose to stay put in India. However, all this will be clear only on the expiry of their visas. While the cut-off date to be eligible for Indian citizenship under the new citizenship law is December 31, 2014, Hindus and other religious identities included in the new Act are hopeful of availing benefits of the CAA sooner or later.

In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, which has been targeting the Centre over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), has done a flip-flop on the CAA. It said Muslims belonging to Pakistan and Bangladesh should be thrown out of the country. The Shiv Sena in its mouthpiece Saamana, however, maintained that the amended citizenship law has loopholes that need to be addressed. “There is no doubt that Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh should be thrown out of the country”, Shiv Sena has said in an editorial in Saamana.

Shiv Sena also took on MNS Chief Raj Thackeray for changing the colour of the party flag to saffron. The Sena accused Raj Thackeray of making Hindutva its prime agenda in order to gain brownie points with the BJP for votes. Launching a scathing attack on MNS chief Raj Thackeray, the Shiv Sena has said nothing justifies Raj Thackeray’s decision to change his party flag to saffron. It may be recalled that extending support to CAA, NCR and NPR, Raj Thackeray on February 9 had said: “The Muslims are taking out morchas around the country…I don’t see the point. Why do they need to make a show of strength? We have nothing against the Indian Muslims… they are ours. We are only against the illegal Muslim infiltrators from Pakistan and Bangladesh.” Raj Thackeray had said, “Henceforth, for all morchas against CAA-NRC-NPR, we (MNS) will counter with morchas, retaliate sword by sword and stone by stone. My message through today’s procession is clear to all whom it is intended for”.

Accusing the MNS of making Hindutva its prime agenda, Shiv Sena said, “14 years back Raj Thackeray formed a party for the Marathi ideology but now it has changed its track to Hindutva.” The editorial in Saamana said that “Just a few weeks back it was same Raj Thackeray who was against the CAA, and now he is changing colours. With CAA not only Muslims but also 30 to 40 percent Hindus will be affected. In this law, army men, the family of an ex-president are not getting included and are being shown as outsiders.”

Amid the chaos over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in the country, an anti-terrorism cell and anti-human trafficking unit has arrested 23 Bangladeshi nationals, who had been living illegally in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. The Bangladeshi nationals were arrested in Virar, which is near Mumbai.

However, in an exclusive interview to Sena mouthpiece Saamana, the Chief Minster, Uddhav Thackeray also said he is convinced that no one will be thrown out of the country because of the new citizenship law. Thackeray, however, said the party is opposed to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that will also “affect the Hindus”. He categorically ruled out implementation of NRC in Maharashtra. “The CAA has been misunderstood, and there is no need to be scared of this law,” Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has said. In a departure from the party’s earlier stand that the law could lead to an “invisible partition” of Hindus and Muslims in India, Thackeray has now said there are still fears about the CAA because it has not been properly debated. The Shiv Sena has said that Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims who have entered the country should be thrown out and “there is no doubt about it”.

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