Tarun Gogoi said Sheikh Hasina has done a lot to make Bangladesh more secular in its outlook.
The manner in which the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill-2016 is being portrayed by BJP leaders at the state and central levels will only end up straining relations between India and Bangladesh, former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has claimed. Claims of "religious persecution" in Bangladesh only serve to undermine Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's efforts to uphold secularism in the neighbouring country, he added.
"This bill will strain relations between the two countries. This present Bangladesh regime has been helpful, and there is peace in the Northeast because of Hasina's decision to act against terrorist camps across the border. Hindus are safe in her country, the number of Durga Pujas is increasing every year, and here you are unnecessarily giving Bangladesh a bad name over religious persecution," Mr Gogoi told NDTV.
The bill, which aims to provide fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, was passed in the Lok Sabha recently.
Mr Gogoi said that in his 15 years spent governing Assam, not a single person from neighbouring Bangladesh had come seeking citizenship due to religious persecution. "I had a long telephonic discussion with the Bangladesh chief minister to discuss the matter," he said, adding that the BJP's campaign of religious persecution in Bangladesh is portraying the Sheikh Hasina government in a "wrong light".
If enacted, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill-2016 will enable Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from the neighbouring states to get citizenship after six years of residing in India even if they do not possess any documents. The current waiting period is 12 years.