Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

How Congress-led UPA govt had planned a major NPR exercise in 2010

akbIndia TV in its ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ show on Thursday night telecast video of what the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram had said about National Population Register 2010. In the NPR form, there was clear mention about nationality status and the entire process involved collection of biometric details of all residents in India.

On Thursday, Chidambaram clarified that the information that was being collected for NPR “related to residency, and not citizenship”. But the PIB press release and NPR 2010 form tell a different story. The NPR 2010 instructions were more stringent compared to what Home Minister Amit Shah has planned for NPR 2020. Shah has clarified that no biometric particulars will be collected.

Chidambaram’s video and NPR 2010 form make it amply clear that the Congress-led UPA government had planned a major process for identifying illegal migrants and this was a prelude to preparing National Register of Citizens based on biometric particulars in order to check the background of each and every citizen. The only difference is that nobody at that time doubted the motives of the Congress party, nor did anybody raise questions.

But presently, an atmosphere has been created throughout the country in which people have started doubting the motives of the Modi government. People are now more prone to believe in baseless rumours and to accept half-baked information as gospel truth. Nobody wants to delve deep into facts. Fear has been created in the minds of Muslims that they would have to submit proof of their citizenship and that they would be thrown out of the country if they failed to submit proof.

It is this fear that is forcing people to come out on to the streets to take part in protests and demonstrations. Political parties which had been traditionally considering Muslims as their vote banks are trying to take undue advantage of the situation.

It is not that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not try to remove misgivings and fears in the minds of minorities. Time and again, he has spoken clearly about Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens. Modi has clearly said that Muslims need not worry at all, but fear mongers are having a hey day inciting people to protest against CAA, NRC and now, NPR.

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Why PM Modi said, protecting public properties is the duty of all citizens

akb3010In a strong attack on anti-CAA protesters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday called on citizens to protect public properties from being vandalized during protests. Modi questioned how anybody can justify the manner in which public properties were destroyed by protesters. “Whatever was torched, was it not for the use of their children?”, he asked.

It is now almost common to see protesters damaging railway tracks and setting fire to buses and police vehicles during violent protests. Nobody stops rioters from doing this because people in general do not consider public property as national property. We have to bring a change in mindsets. Public properties are created with our own taxes and for our own benefit. Damaging public property is akin to damaging one’s own property.

All those miscreants who damaged public properties must be severely dealt with. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has taken the initiative in this regard. Authorities have started identifying miscreants who have damaged public properties. Their pictures are being flashed and most of them have now gone underground to evade the hands of law.

Such miscreants must be identified and legal processes must be initiated to seize their properties to compensate for the losses they have inflicted on public property. Such action will act as a deterrence for such miscreants from repeating similar acts in future and there would be fear of law in the minds of rioters. Care must be taken to ensure that innocent citizens are not harassed by police and not subjected to police excesses.

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Why Amit Shah said, NPR has nothing to do with NRC

akb1709The Union Cabinet on Tuesday decided to initiate the process for preparing National Population Register, which is considered a prelude to 2021 Census which is now due. Home Minister Amit Shah in an interview clarified that the NPR process has nothing to do with National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Amit Shah sought to remove confusions that have been created in the minds of people. He said, NPR is only part of the process of Census that is carried out every 10 years. Asked whether the Centre would use the information collected during NPR for NRC, Shah said that there was a different law for carrying out census, which has nothing to do with citizenship law. He said, there would be a different law for NRC.

The Home Minister explained that the NPR will be prepared to enable the government to formulate different schemes for the poor and under privileged. He pointed out that the process for NPR had been initiated during the Congress-led UPA rule. He said, he would personally speak to the chief ministers of West Bengal and Kerala, who have opposed NPR.

Asked whether initiating the NPR process was a right step in view of nationwide protests against NRC, Shah said, the process had already begun and the notification has already been issued on July 31 this year. He said, all the state governments have already given their consent for NPR, and if it would have been delayed, the census work in 2021 would have lagged behind, because door-to-door mapping exercise will have to begin from April, 2020.

Amit Shah clarified that the NPR process was a Constitutional requirement and it was not part of BJP’s political agenda. Throughout his interview, the Home Minister refrained from making remarks against opposition parties. This is a welcome step. Let us hope that political parties and anti-CAA and anti-NRC activists will understand this and cooperate in carrying out the NPR process.

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Why BJP lost Jharkhand assembly elections?

akb3010On Monday, BJP lost the Jharkhand assembly polls to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led alliance that included Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal. The JMM-led alliance won 47 out of a total of 81 seats and Hemant Soren is set to become the next chief minister, replacing Raghubar Das.

There were eight assembly elections in India since December last year, and the BJP managed to hold on to only one state, Haryana, after patching up a post-poll alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s party. BJP could have retained Maharashtra had Shiv Sena not switched camps after the polls to join hands with NCP and Congress. Jharkhand is the fifth state that BJP has lost in the last one year.

Let us assess what happened in Jharkhand.

Nearly six months ago, the BJP had swept the Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand, winning 12 of the state’s 14 LS seats with a 51 per cent vote share. The party had won 57 of the total 81 assembly segments six months ago, but in the assembly polls this time, the party could manage to win only 25 seats with 34 pc votes, and lost the single largest party status to JMM, which won 30 seats.

Three important reasons were behind BJP’s defeat.

Firstly, as in other states, the party ignored its allies like AJSU in Jharkhand and finally opted to go alone. On the other hand, the JMM forged a strong alliance with Congress and RJD, and prevented anti-BJP votes from being divided. BJP got 34 pc votes, AJSU got 9 pc votes, while the JMM-led coalition got nearly 36 pc votes.

Secondly, several senior BJP leaders quit their parent party. Radhakrishna Kishore joined the AJSU, while another senior leader Saryu Rai raised the banner of revolt against Chief Minister Raghubar Das and defeated him from Jamshedpur East seat. The main grouse of the senior BJP leaders was that the party leadership ignored them and gave away tickets to defectors who had joined the party recently.

Thirdly, BJP committed mistake in projecting a non-Adivasi as its chief ministerial candidate. Adivasis constitute more than 26 pc of the state’s electorate and there are 28 seats reserved for tribals. Adivasi leaders in BJP had complained to the leadership that the tribals were unhappy with the chief minister and considered him as anti-tribal. Nobody paid attention to the words of tribal BJP leaders. Party leaders in Jharkhand say that the leadership reposed too much trust in the chief minister, and the consequences are there for all to see. The BJP lost the fifth state in the last one year.

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Take stern action against political leaders who are inciting violence

AKB1909 Eleven people were killed and many injured in violent anti-CAA protests that rocked several cities of Uttar Pradesh on Friday. UP Police however put the death toll at six. In Delhi, there was peaceful protest near Jama Masjid but the day ended with arson and stone pelting near Daryaganj.

In order to stop rumours from spreading, the UP government snapped internet services in 21 districts, including Lucknow and Varanasi. Incidents of violence were also reported from Jabalpur (MP) and Vadodara (Gujarat).

Most of the violent anti-CAA protests that took place in UP on Friday were in pockets considered as strongholds of Samajwadi Party. BSP supremo Mayawati had said earlier in the day that her partymen would protest peacefully unlike other parties who indulge in stone pelting and vandalism.

The death of people in police firing in UP is saddening, but there is need for immediate action against political leaders who are fanning and inciting protests.

I would like to appreciate Delhi Police for its efforts to ensure peace during Friday protests near Jama Masjid. Not a single stone was thrown, and the protesters dispersed after appeals from local Muslim clerics. In the evening, a car was set on fire in Daryaganj, and I have been told by local Muslim leaders that some outsiders had come to the locality to carry out this act of arson.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a video message on Friday said that “people’s apprehensions are real and legitimate”. Drawing a parallel with demonetization, Sonia Gandhi said CAA will force all individuals to stand in queues to prove their and their ancestor’s citizenship while the NRC would target the poor. Her words were echoed by her daughter Priyanka Vadra who made it a rich versus poor issue and said that poor people would be hard hit while trying to prove their citizenship.

The fear that Priyanka Vadra has aroused in the minds of Muslims, is exactly the same that is being spread among the Muslims during the last two weeks.

The Home Ministry got its act together only after several days to admit this sense of fear, and it had to issue a clarification on Friday that only a document mentioning date of birth and place of birth would be sufficient to prove one’s citizenship. This includes Aadhar card, PAN card, school leaving certificate or the like. There will be no need to submit birth certificates of individuals or their parents. Those who do not have these documents can submit affidavit from any member of their community. If either of the parents is an Indian, the child shall be considered an Indian citizen.

These clarifications are helpful, but there appears to be a huge trust deficit between the Muslims and the government. A sense of confidence will have to be created in the minds of people so that they can trust the government’s assurances. The average Muslim is watching this entire exercise with suspicion, and it is this which has became a fertile ground for interested political groups to play with people’s emotions.

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Mamata’s demand for UN-monitored referendum on CAA is preposterous

akb1709I respect West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee as a political fighter. Presently, she articulates the voice of the opposition. As a strong opponent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she has every right to put forth her views courageously.

On Thursday, while addressing a rally in Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee demanded a United Nations-monitored referendum on the CAA and NRC issues. The Trinamool Congress chief should know that the entire world respects India’s democratic institutions. For the chief minister of a state to demand a UN-monitored referendum on a bill passed by both Houses of Parliament, is, to say the least, preposterous and unfortunate.

As far as Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens are concerned, there are questions in the minds of common people, which require answers. People are asking whether only Muslims will be asked to submit documents to prove their citizenship and other communities will be exempted. The answer is: the NRC draft is not yet ready and if, at all, it is implemented, it shall apply to everybody irrespective of language, caste or communities.

Questions are being asked whether people will be asked to submit documents prior to 1971. I posed this question to the government at senior levels, and the reply was, no. The pre-1971 documents were sought only in the case of Assam, because the cut-off date of 1971 was set in the Assam Accord. For the rest of the country, the voter identity card or similar document will be sufficient. No document relating to parents or grandparents will be asked for.

So, there is nothing to worry. Your voter I-Card, passport, driving license, ration card, High School certificate or any other similar document will be sufficient to prove your citizenship.

I will now point out to some of the unfortunate incidents that are taking place in the name of anti-CAA protests.

In Ahmedabad on Thursday, a mob attacked some policemen, and when a policeman fell while boarding a police bus, he was beaten up badly by an unruly mob. Can anybody justify such action in the name of protest? If police takes action in the form of lathicharge or firing or by using force, will their action not be justified? Will those activists who are supporting anti-CAA protests defend such mob attacks on a policeman? Or will the policeman, who became the target of the mob, be held responsible, and the action by the mob will be justified? I must add that 7 Muslims came forward and saved the cops from stone pelters. They had to try hard as no one was ready to listen to a sane voice.

These are searching questions that need to be answered. The answers are vital to the very existence of our democracy.

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A look at how rapists take undue advantage of loopholes in legal system

akb0808The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a review petition by Akshay Singh, one of the four convicts in the infamous Nirbhaya gangrape murder case. The same day, a Delhi court directed Tihar jail authorities to issue notice to all the four convicts apprising them of their remaining legal remedies and gather their responses within a week. The court will hear the case on January 7.

Under Rule 837 of the Delhi Prison Rules, 2018, the jail superintendent has to inform the death row convicts that if they desire to submit mercy petitions , they should be submitted in writing within seven days of such intimation. For issuing death warrants, review petitions of all convicts have to be dismissed.

The statuses of the four death row convicts are presently at different stages. One of the convicts Mukesh has said he will not submit mercy petition and another convict Vinay withdrew his mercy petition. The fourth convict Pawan has filed a petition in Delhi High Court claiming that he was minor at the time of crime in 2012.

Seven years after the horrendous Nirbhaya incident, her mother on Wednesday, with tears in her eyes, asked the additional sessions judge: “They have their rights, what about our rights?” The judge told her, “I know someone has died, but there are their rights too. We are here to listen to you, but we are also bound by the law.”

There was nationwide outrage over the Nirbhaya incident seven years ago. Even though the courts have handed out death sentence to the convicts, there are loopholes in the legal system which are being taken advantage of by the convicts. These loopholes are the main reasons for delay in delivery of justice.

You will be surprised to know that in Delhi alone, after the Nirbhaya incident, there were 14,384 rape cases in Delhi alone till date, and no death sentence was given in a single case. Courts gave verdicts in only about 800 cases.

The first big reason behind delay in delivery of justice is the attitude of the police. It has been noticed that police is normally reluctant to file cases for incidents of sexual assault and rape. In some cases, the rape survivors are harassed by the police, and their families are persuaded not to pursue the cases because of “social blot”.

The second reason is: slipshod investigations by police. Because of unprofessional investigation, the prosecution’s case fails to stand legal scrutiny. The third reason: paucity in number of forensic labs where DNA of samples can be tested. The fourth reason: paucity in the number of prosecutors. In some POCSO cases, there were hardly any prosecution lawyers available. The fifth reason: witnesses turn hostile during cross-examination in courts.

Bunched together, the attitude of the police, long legal procedures and societal outlook, collectively exert too much pressures on the minds of rape survivors and their families. In several cases, police fail to provide security to rape survivors, the victim turns hostile due to threats and intimidation and the rapists go scot free.

Now that the hearing has been posted till January 7, it is now clear that Nirbhaya’s killers will not be hanged in 2019. Her parents will have to wait till next year for justice to be delivered.

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How rumours on social media are striking fear in the minds of Muslims

akb2910Pitched battles were fought between Muslim protesters and Delhi Police in northeast Delhi’s Seelampur area on Tuesday, but timely intervention by local Muslim leaders through announcements from mosques helped to control the situation within three hours. A peaceful procession had been planned to protest against the amended citizenship law, but suddenly miscreants in the mob resorted to pelting stones at the police.

Late in the evening, there was tension in Brijpuri too, but local Muslim leaders helped in restoring peace. We should welcome such measures by local leaders, but the overall picture that emerges is of a confused Indian Muslim.

The average Indian Muslim is confused because of baseless rumours and messages circulating on social media. Rumours are fuelling communal tension forcing Muslims to come out on the streets to protest and vandalize public property.

Most of the protesters do not even know what they are protesting against. There is nothing in the amended Citizenship Act that would affect Muslims in India. Rumours that are being spread about NRC (National Register of Citizens) are unfounded and baseless. NRC has not been implemented anywhere except Assam, then why these protests?

Miscreants join students and protesters to create mayhem and it is time that the protesters realize how they are being misused as a tool. There was not a single student among ten persons arrested for Sunday’s violence at Jamia Millia Islamia. They were locals and included three history sheeters who had indulged in crimes in the past.

Clearly, enemies of civil society are vitiating the atmosphere and baseless rumours about the need to prove one’s citizenship are being spread to strike fear in the minds of Muslims. Several political leaders are behind these elements who are circulating rumours.

The stone pelters whom India TV reporter spoke to on Tuesday openly said that they may be asked to provide documents to prove their citizenship even though their forefathers had been staying here for more than 70 years. Some of these stone pelters openly said that they feared they could be thrown into detention centres, while non-Muslims who do not have documents will not be affected because of CAA. Clearly, the rumour mill machine is working overtime.

The draft NRC notification is yet to be prepared, the Cabinet is yet to approve it and Home Minister Amit Shah has clearly said that not a single Muslim will have to worry about NRC. And yet, due to baseless rumours on social media, protests have taken place in Jamia Millia, Aligarh Muslim University, Lucknow, Kochi and now Delhi.

The government must take strong measures against people circulating false rumours on social media. It must be nipped in the bud before the virus spreads.

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Indian Muslims must cast aside their sense of fear over CAA

akb3010There were protests by students against the amended Citizenship Act on Monday in Aligarh Muslim University, Jadavpur University, Mau in UP, Lucknow’s Darul Uloom Nadwatul seminary and in Kochi in Kerala, even as uneasy calm prevailed in Assam. The situation was tense in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, where violence and arson had taken place on Sunday. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee led a huge procession against CAA and NRC in Kolkata.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a series of tweets appealed for ‘peace, unity and brotherhood’. “It is my appeal to everyone to stay away from any sourt of rumour mongering and falsehoods. We cannot allow vested interest groups to divide us and create disturbance”, he tweeted. Modi described the violent protests as “unfortunate and deeply distressing”.

The question that arises is: why are there widespread protests across the country? The Prime Minister has emphatically said, “CAA does not affect any citizen of India of any religion. No Indian has anything to worry about this Act.”

This amended citizenship law has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. It is only meant to clear the path of citizenship for those who are facing religious persecution in Islamic neighbouring countries. Then why these nationwide protests?

I think the major reason behind this is the sense of fear that has been driven into the minds of Indian Muslims. This fear is being created from the pulpits of some mosques, by some local activists, by some Congress leaders and majorly by social media in which fears are being raised among Muslims about the documents they will have to produce to prove their identity as Indian citizens. Muslims are being told that no documents will be sought from Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, and only Muslims will be targeted. This is a travesty of truth.

Despite the fact that Indian Muslims will not be required to submit documents about their domicile, Muslim men and women are asking whether they would really be asked to produce any such document in the near future? Will they lose their Indian citizenship? Where will they go?

It is this sense of fear which forces them to take part in protests that are taking place across the country. The government must now convince and reassure Muslims that there would be nothing of this sort. The government must establish proper channels to communicate with the Muslims and remove the sense of fear that is pervading their minds.

I would appeal to all Muslims to trust in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words of assurance. There is no danger to their citizenship. They will not have to submit documents to establish their citizenship. The amended Citizenship Act is meant only for non-Muslims who are fleeing neighbouring Islamic countries due to religious persecution, nothing more and nothing less. The amended law will have no effect on Indian Muslims residing here.

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Rahul should have apologized for his ‘Rape in India’ remark

Aaj Ki Baat Addressing an election rally in Jharkhand, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of atrocities against women, and remarked, ‘you might have heard about ‘Make in India’, but it has now become ‘Rape in India’ ‘.

On Friday, women MPs from BJP, led by Union Minister Smriti Irani raised the issue in Lok Sabha and demanded his unconditional apology. Rahul Gandhi refused to tender apology and instead pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in a public meeting six years ago described Delhi as the ‘Rape Capital’ of India.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that Rahul Gandhi ‘had no moral right’ to be in Parliament after making such a remark. The women BJP MPs later went to the Election Commission and lodged a complaint demanding ‘severest possible action’ against the Gandhi scion.

In my view, Rahul Gandhi, as an opposition party leader, has every right to criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies, he has the right to question the government and to level allegations, but atrocities against women is a sensitive issue.

Before making such a remark, he should have taken care of his language, his thoughts and his style of speech. Of course, it is a matter of shame that we, as part of our society, have failed to provide enough security to women and ensure their safety. The way in which Rahul Gandhi tried to rhyme it with ‘Make in India’ was really insensitive. It was like making mockery of the situation, shorn of sensitivity.

I feel, it is not proper to stoop to that low level in order to criticize Narendra Modi. Had Rahul Gandhi admitted his mistake and apologized, the matter could have ended there, but now it has reached the Election Commission.

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People of Assam must listen to Prime Minister’s assurance on CAB

akb2910Thousands of people defied curfew in Guwahati on Thursday to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. There were incidents of violence and arson. Two persons were killed and nine others were injured in police firing in Guwahati.

Curfew has been clamped in several districts of Assam and train services have been suspended. Internet and mobile services have been suspended in most parts of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura to stop baseless rumours from being circulated. The police commissioner in Guwahati and the Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) have been transferred.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in tweets posted in English and Asomiya, gave his firm assurance to the people of Assam that he and the Central government were “totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people in accordance with the spirit of Clause 6 of 1985 Assam Accord. I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of CAB. I want to assure them – no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.”

The PM repeated these assurances in his election rallies in Jharkhand and alleged that Congress is trying to mislead the Muslims and people of North East on CAB. There is no doubt that the PM’s appeal for calm will have its effect in the North East as the majority of people continue to repose their trust in his leadership.

Apart from the PM’s appeal for calm, people of North East must be told that the CAB will have practically no effect on northeastern states because of Inner Line Permit system which bars outsiders from taking permanent residence in most of those states.

Prime Minister Modi has reminded the people that he has paid more visits to the North East compared to all the visits by previous Prime Ministers to the North East. He has been sending at least two cabinet ministers every week to the North East on a regular basis to keep track of the projects that are coming up there.

I would appeal to the people of North East, particularly the youths, to trust the Prime Minister, have patience and avoid resorting to violent protests. Assam’s properties belong to the Assamese and they must not damage them. Arson and vandalizing of properties will take them nowhere. They have full freedom in expressing their opinions, but they should do that in a peaceful manner. Let wisdom prevail.

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Minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan can now breath a fresh air of life

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday night passed, by 125-99 majority, the landmark Citizenship Amendment Bill clearing the path for giving citizenship to Hindus and five other minorities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Bill will become law once the President gives his assent.

Now that the acrimonious debates are over, one should understand the implications of this new law.

Lakhs of minorities who have come from these three neighbouring countries to take refuge in India, are hiding from the arms of law. They used to hide their identities lest they could be sent back to their countries of origin. These people will finally breathe an air of relief. They can now come out in the open, disclose their identities and apply for Indian citizenship. Finally, people who were forced to take refuge from religious persecution can now live a new life.

Imagine the level of fear in the minds of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis who were forced to take refuge in India due to religious persecution in the three neighbouring countries.

Their womenfolk used to constantly live in fear, lest they could be subjected to sexual assault, kidnapping and forcible conversion to Islam. These refugees, being stateless, were deprived of the benefits of education, jobs and right to vote since they had not been granted Indian citizenship. This new law, brought in humanitarian interest, will grant them citizenship so that they can lead a life of freedom, free from intimidation on grounds of religion.

People of Assam have nothing to fear from this Bill as it will not affect the demography, culture, language and job situation there. Similarly, people in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have nothing to fear from the Bill, as the inner line permit system is there to protect the local people from entry of outsiders.

Home Minister Amit Shah has pointed out one important aspect, that this Bill is for granting citizenship, and not for revoking citizenship. Muslims living in India have nothing to fear from this Bill. This law is not going to affect their lives, education, jobs or citizenship is any way. Muslims should not listen to falsehood and rumours being circulated by vested interest groups.

Indefinite curfew has been imposed and army has been called out in Guwahati and Dibrugarh of Assam, after protests against CAB turned violent. Internet has been suspended in most parts of Assam and Tripura. The situation is truly a matter of serious concern. The Centre, in close coordination with the state governments, must try to dispel fear from the minds of people of Assam and other North Eastern states.

One can understand that the fear has emanated mainly because of NRC (National Register of Citizens) that has been introduced in Assam. Both the issues are completely different. The NRC is meant for identifying migrants who have entered India illegally, while the CAB is meant for granting citizenship to minorities from Islamic states like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have taken refuge in India.

The CAB is not going to affect the jobs of Assamese in any manner. The Centre should reach out to Assamese students and youths and dispel all apprehensions. Simultaneously, rumour mongers must be taken to task.

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