Northeast comes to standstill with shutdown against citizenship bill

Clay Curtis
January 9, 2019

On Monday a small party in the BJP-led coalition in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), walked out of the alliance in protest at the bill, saying it would lead to an influx of Bangladeshi Hindus.

Police said the situation turned unruly suddenly after a group of people shouting slogans against the Bill gathered in front of the BJP office in Amolapatty in Dibrugarh and ransacked it.

"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. He said the NDA government was hasty in granting ST status to six communities in Assam as a political ploy ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

He also rued that Chief Minister Sonowal refused to meet them when they had sought an appointment to discuss the issue with him as "probably he could not face us".

Protests have erupted in recent months and on Monday in Assam, where a movement against illegal immigrants, of all religions, from Bangladesh has simmered for decades, with some residents blaming them for eating into their resources and job opportunities.

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".

"The BJP won many seats in the Assembly elections (in 2016) only due to the AGP".

While speaking in Silchar, Assam on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated the Centre's commitment to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

"We tried to convince the Centre that the bill was against the Assam Accord and will nullify the ongoing updating of the National Register of Citizens", Bora told reporters after the meeting.

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The proposed legislation seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It referred to the understanding arrived at prior to the Assam Assembly election, 2016, and said the AGP had chose 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". "AGP is with the sentiments of people of Assam and the BJP against, and that is the main difference".

India's lower house of Parliament approved a bill Tuesday that would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslims who entered India illegally, allegedly after fleeing persecution in several neighboring nations, despite protests against the legislation in the populous northeast that brought the region to a near standstill.

The bill is likely to be taken up in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The AGP has no MP in Lok Sabha or in Rajya Sabha.

All educational institutions in Guwahati as well as other parts of the State chose to remain closed.

In Assam the bandh called by All Assam Students Union (AASU), which crippled the normal life in Brahmaputra Valley, turned violent in different parts of the state where incidents of stone pelting, tyre burning, and occasional lathi charges were reported from various places. Even the governments of Meghalaya and Mizoram have opposed the bill adopting resolutions against it. "We will see when the time comes, but as of now, we have made our stand clear that we are not supporting the Bill".

Asked if the National People's Party will put out of the BJP-led NDA government, the NPP Chief said: "We have been very clear to the NDA that this is something we will not support".

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