The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has invited the chief ministers of the northeastern states, besides leaders of socio-cultural bodies, student organisations and political parties from the region, for discussions over the next two days on the plans to amend the Citizenship Act, officials said on Thursday.
Those who have been invited for discussions on Friday and Saturday include the North East Students’ Organisation, the All Bodo Students’ Union, and student bodies from Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal.
The meetings with the chief ministers will be held on Saturday, an official said.
Leaders of several political parties – both regional and state chiefs of national political parties – and heads of socio-cultural organisations have also been invited for the discussions, the official said.
The home ministry has convened the meetings in the wake of strong protests registered by many organisations against the bill in the Northeast.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is expected to be present at the meetings, another official said.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, in order to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who come to India after facing religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan even if they don’t possess proper documents.
This was an election promise of the BJP in the 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
A large section of people and organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill, saying it would nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed 24 March, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion.
The Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a few other political parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill, claiming that citizenship cannot be given on the basis of religion.
The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the bill in its previous tenure and got the Lok Sabha’s approval. But the government did not introduce it in the Rajya Sabha, apparently due to vehement protests in the Northeast.
The bill lapsed following the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.
According to the earlier bill, those who came to India on or before 31 December, 2014, will benefit from the proposed legislation after it becomes an act.
There is a possibility of changes in the cut-off date too, another official said.
The Modi government has listed the bill in its items of business for the ongoing winter session of Parliament and is set to push for its passage.
The BJP and its Hindutva affiliates have insisted that minorities from the three countries, which include a significant number of Hindus, should be granted Indian citizenship.
The Centre had on Monday reviewed the security situation in the northeastern states following the protests against the citizenship amendment bill (CAB) over the past few weeks.
Heads of intelligence agencies of all northeastern states, the Assam Rifles, and paramilitary forces attended the meeting.
The meeting, convened by the National Security Council (NSC) secretariat, analyzed the intelligence inputs coming from the ground with regard to opposition to the bill, a security official said.
The top officials gave detailed presentations in the meeting on the findings of their respective agencies and forces about the protests and people’s approach towards the proposed legislation.
The NSC secretariat is headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
At the proposed meeting, the Arunachal BJP will be represented by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Home Minister Bamang Felix, MoS (Independent) for Sports & Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju, MP Tapir Gao, UD Minister Kamlung Mossang, and Namsai MLA Zingnu Namchoom.
The other political leaders who have been invited to the meeting are APCC president and former CM Nabam Tuki, state NPP chief Gicho Kabak, NPP MLA Tapuk Taku, JD (U) MLA Hayang Mangfi, and PPA president Kahfa Bengia.
AITF president Bengia Tolum, NESO coordinator Pritam Waii Sonam, AAPSU president Hawa Bagang and AAPSU vice-president Meje Taku have also been invited to attend the meeting.
Speaking to the media, Taku urged all political parties attending the meeting to speak in one voice and oppose the CAB.
“First of all, we are all indigenous tribal and it’s our duty to protect our land. At this juncture, we should forget all our differences and together work to save Arunachal Pradesh,” he said. (With PTI input)

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