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PM Modi seeks to douse Citizenship Bill fire in Assam

Greeted with protests and black flags in Assam over the Citizenship Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday sought to allay fears about the controversial legislation and told a massive gathering here that it will in no way harm the interests of the people of the state and the Northeast.

Addressing a public rally at Changsari on the outskirt of Guwahati, Mr Modi, in a veiled attack on Congress, said some parties are trying to create confusion by spreading rumors and reiterated that there is no room for “intruders” in Assam as well as the country.

In his first visit to Assam after the Citizenship Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8 and sent to Rajya Sabha for approval, Mr Modi said, “Those who sit in AC rooms in Delhi, who fight us in the Parliament are spreading misinformation. But the BJP is committed to protecting the culture and resources of Assam and the Northeast. The Clause 6, which is the soul of Assam Accord, has remained unimplemented for the last 35 years and our government will implement it in letter and spirit.”

Clause 6 of the accord suggests constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

“During the Congress rule, headlines from the Northeast indicated sheer neglect and apathy. The headlines now reflect positivity and development. Congress has zero respect for Assam’s culture. They had no will to implement important parts of the Assam Accord,” said Mr Modi.

Mr Modi was shown black flags in at least two places for the second consecutive day while on his way to the airport from the Raj Bhawan in Guwahati. Protesters, belonging to the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP), showed black flags to Mr Modi at Machkhowa area. Minutes later, a group of students of the Gauhati University waved black flags at Mr Modi in the Jalukbari area.

Seeking to address resentment over the Citizenship Bill, Mr Modi said, “It is a national commitment to the people of the Northeast that they will not be harmed in any way and citizenship will be only granted after due investigation and recommendation of the state governments.”

The Prime Minister also reached out to protesters saying, “To rid Assam and country of infiltrators, we’ve always strengthened voice of people. That is why we did Chitmahal agreement and are working towards completely sealing India-Bangladesh border.”

He was referring to a revised version of India-Bangladesh land boundary agreement that was adopted by the two countries on May 7, 2015, when Parliament passed the 100th Amendment to the Constitution.

He argued, “There is a difference between those who forcibly enter the country and those who are forced to flee their homes to save their lives due to their faith. Both are not the same.”

Several allies of the BJP in the Northeast have already made their opposition to the “discriminatory” Bill known to the ruling party. A former regional ally of the BJP, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), broke up with NDA ahead of the passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha.

Mr Modi who laid foundation of a six-lane bridge on Brahamaputra and AIIMS at Changsari also criticised the Congress for denying Bharat Ratna to singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika during his lifetime.

At separate events in neighbouring Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh, the Prime Minister hit out Opposition parties for deriding him and peddling lies, an attempt to counter criticism on Rafale deal, job creation and farm distress.

In Arunachal Pradesh, Mr Modi inaugurated worth `4,000 crore and said his government was giving a lot of importance to improve connectivity in the sensitive border state.

Addressing at function at the IG Park in Itanagar, he said, “Compare us with the previous government and see the difference.”

During his rally in Agartala, the Prime Minister once again called the Opposition a “mahamilawat” (great adulteration).

“The job of the ‘mahamilawatwalas’ is only to heap abuses and more abuses on Modi. It is as if an Olympics is on to deride Modi,” he said, adding that the results of the coming Lok Sabha elections will show what it takes to lie to people.

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