Citizenship Bill: Mamata Supports Bhupen Hazarika’s Son

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Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday came out in support of Assamese singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika’s son on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and said the Narendra Modi government should “understand and respect” the sentiments of the people of the north-east.

Her comments came in the backdrop of Hazarika’s son Tez saying his father’s name and words were being invoked and celebrated publicly (by the Centre) even as plans were afoot to pass the “painfully unpopular” Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Tez had described the proposed legislation as “undermining” the “documented position” of Hazarika, who was awarded the Bharat Ratna — the country’s highest civilian award — posthumously by the Modi government last month.

“We (Trinamool Congress) have opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and demanded that it should be withdrawn.

“Why do citizens of this country need to prove their citizenship again? Those who have come to this country after partition from Pakistan and Bangladesh are very much citizens of this country. They want to insult the people of this country in the name of citizenship,” Banerjee told reporters here.

The bill provides for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in the country, instead of 12 years currently, even if they do not possess any document.

“We have great respect for Bhupen Hazarika. Now, when his family has taken a stand regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, we appreciate their sentiments. The Modi government should understand and respect the sentiments of the people of the north-east,” the TMC chief said.

Banerjee, a strident critic of Prime Minister Modi, accused the Centre of trying to insult the people of the country in the name of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

She was speaking to reporters at the airport before leaving for Delhi to participate in the mega rally of non-BJP leaders convened by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on February 13 against the Modi government.

The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8 and has been on the Rajya Sabha schedule. The ongoing budget session of Parliament concludes on Wednesday.

Replying to a query, Banerjee said, “I am going to Delhi as (AAP supremo) Arvind Kejriwal had invited me for the dharna.”

Apart from attending a programme of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in the national capital, the chief minister said she would also meet leaders of other political parties.