Citizenship Bill Shuts Down NE, AGP Breaks Alliance, Ministers to Resign

Activists of the Left Democratic Manch alliance hold placards as they take part in a rally in protest against Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 in Guwahati. — AFP

Citizenship Bill Shuts Down NE, AGP Breaks Alliance, Ministers to Resign

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on January 8 accused Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal of "not cooperating" on the Citizenship Amendment Bill and giving due respect to the emotions and interests of the Assamese people. Vehicles were damaged in Guwahati, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts, police said.

The BJP has 61 members while 12 MLAs of the Bodoland People's Front and a sole Independent member are backing the party.

"The state unit of the BJP has strongly condemned the act of arson in its state headquarters at Bivar Road", BJP Minister A.L. Hek said in a statement.

"This is going to backfire on the BJP", he said, pointing to the anger in Assam. They also pelted stones in many parts of Assam.

Miscreants hurled petrol bombs at the state headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) here in Meghalaya late on Sunday night, a police official said on Monday. "If Sonowal, his cabinet colleagues and the state BJP leadership had taken a strong stand and respected people's sentiments on the bill, then the Centre would not have dared to go ahead with such arrogance", Bora said.

That could hurt the BJP's goal of sharply increasing its parliamentary seats from the northeast region of the country in the national election.

A number of civil society groups in the Northeast are opposed to the bill - that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan - saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion. On Monday, it walked out of the coalition because of disagreements about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

"It is very unfortunate that this bill has been passed; this is something which we have been opposing vehemently and as a cabinet also had passed a resolution that we will oppose any kind of implementation of this bill", Conrad told media persons today in Shillong.

This was an election promise of the BJP in 2014.

"If the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill comes into effect, we will have to accept another two million people who have been identified as foreigners in the National Register of Citizens".

Demonstrators in the state are angry about the bill not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers from elsewhere, accusing the migrants of taking away jobs from indigenous groups.

It referred to the understanding arrived at prior to the Assam Assembly election, 2016, and said the AGP had made a decision to go for the alliance during a discussion with the BJP in New Delhi on "the basis of clear understanding of the Assam Accord, other major issues of Assam, including the seat adjustments". The JPC report was submitted to the Lok Sabha on Monday and adopted through a majority vote, amidst dissent notes by opposition members.

The entire north-eastern region came to a standstill on Tuesday morning responding to the shutdown call of various students' organizations spearheaded by North East Students' Organization (NESO) against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

"Our alliance with the BJP is a pre-poll alliance, so the BJP should have the morality to face the verdict of the people", Mr Mahanta said.

CPI-M's Tripura state Secretary Gautam Das, Congress Vice-President Tapas Dey and many other leaders of different political parties apprehend that if the NDA government passes the bill forcefully in the Parliament, a serious resentment would crop up in the northeast.

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