Citizenship Bill: How it may dampen BJP’s hope in Northeast

Activists of the Assam Pradesh Congress committee shout slogans during a rally in protest against Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 which will provide citizenship or stay rights to minorities from Bangladesh Pakistan and Afghanistan in India in Guwahati

Citizenship Bill: How it may dampen BJP’s hope in Northeast

Interestingly, even Shiv Sena, an aggrieved NDA ally has made a decision to join the opposition against the bill, while another ally, Prafulla Mahanta's Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), BJP's partner in Assam, has already announced on Monday pulling out of the alliance over the bill.

"We had pointed out to Sonowal that people had accorded him the title of "Jatiya Nayak" (leader of the community) after the Supreme Court scrapped the Illegal Migrants' Determination by Tribunal (IMDT) Act following his petition and it was his duty to respect people's sentiments on the issue", he said.

The legislation, which still needs the approval of the upper house, seeks to grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsis and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While speaking in Silchar, Assam on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated the Centre's commitment to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill. "An FIR was lodged and copies of it were also sent to the Chief Minister and Home Minister requesting stern action against those involved in the crime", he said.

The committee also heard the views of the chief secretaries and police chiefs of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

Unidentified persons lobbed a Molotov cocktail (a bottle with flammable liquid) at a BJP office in Shillong partially damaging it, a police officer said on Monday.

The AGP, with 14 seats in the 126-member legislative assembly, had entered into an alliance with the BJP before the 2014 assembly polls.

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

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"We will oppose the Bill in a bigger way now".

The letter to Shah, which was also signed by Mahanta, said, "It is reliably learnt that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in spite of our protest, including the protests resorted to by various organisations of indigenous people of Assam before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, is to be placed before Parliament".

A large number of people in Assam and other northeastern states have been protesting against the bill, saying it would nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after 1971 should be deported.

"We, therefore, can not remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the Modi government".

The Congress, TMC, CPI-M and a few other parties are opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion. The North East Students' Organisation (NESO), the umbrella group of student bodies of Northeast, has called for a Northeast bandh against the Bill on Tuesday.

The bill - aggressively pushed by the BJP-led government - has become a political and social flashpoint, particularly in the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) being updated in Assam.

The AGP leaders hoped that Amit Shah's "good office" would certainly take necessary steps so that the bill is not placed in Parliament at any point of time. The newly-elected Mizo National Front government is also opposing the Bill.In Nagaland, Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) is against the Bill.

Meanwhile, ignoring the ongoing, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his deputy Himanta Biswa Sarma laid the foundation stone of a new medical college in Tinsukia where they alleged that just a section of vested interests was trying to vitiate the atmosphere of the state in order to block development.

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