Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in Lok Sabha

Saul Bowman
January 9, 2019

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has withdrawn its support to ruling BJP in Assam over the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The Union Cabinet's decision can been seen as a balancing act by the central government to strong opposition to the bill in Assam.

It would grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsi 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.

The AGP's move to snap ties with the BJP, just a few months before general elections, will have little impact on chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal's government, but it adds to the perception about the saffron party's inability to keep its allies. "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. "It is the BJP which is responsible for AGP's quitting the alliance and they should step down immediately", said Mahanta.

Interestingly, while all these was happening outside the office of the Cachar Deputy Commissioner, members of North East Linguistic and Ethnic Coordination Committee (NELECC) hailed the developments and termed this to be a historic move to solve a perrinial problem faced by the people of Assam.

Protesters in Assam set up blockades with burning tires and vandalized two BJP offices, disrupting traffic and business from early in the morning to late afternoon.

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 MLAs and its other regional ally, the Bodoland People's Front, which has assured its continuous support, has 13. Later, opposing the bill, members of Congress and TMC staged a walkout.

"The NDA government must give a list of such people before pressing for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in Parliament", Mahanta said.

"We now regret entering into an alliance with the BJP". The bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the all the six religions from the three countries.

The bill seeks to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before December 31, 2014.

The legislation also seeks to provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other states, the Home Minister said.

The AGP had placed its reservations on the Bill before the Joint Parliamentary Committee when the panel had visited the state and also tried to mobilise opinion against the Bill among NDA constituents such as the JD (U) and Shiv Sena, and opposition parties.

In his dissent note, CPI-M member Mohammad Salim said the Indian citizenship flows from the Constitution that grants it as a fundamental right and the right can not be religion specific or country of origin specific. 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. "Sixth Schedule of the Constitution is also proposed to be amended to strengthen the Autonomous District Councils", he said.

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