January 19, 2019

Northeast Bandh Against Assam's Citizen List Begins Amid Heavy Security

09 January 2019, 05:11 | Darnell Patrick

Protesters against the bill have accused settlers of taking away jobs from indigenous groups

Protesters against the bill have accused settlers of taking away jobs from indigenous groups

However, the protests against the Citizenship Bill by the BJP's allies in Northeast, especially in Assam, may dampen the hope of the party which is recovering from the recent loss in Assembly elections in three states and trying hard to keep its alliance intact in other parts of the country.

The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 was passed in Lok Sabha on Tuesday even as an Assam and North East region bandh was called against it.

The leading civil society group - Asom Nagrik Samaj, a platform of prominent intellectuals, writers and journalists, on Monday observed "Dhikkar Divas" (Condemnation Day) against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, in Dighalipukhuri, Assam.

"We made a last-ditch attempt today to convince the Centre not to pass the bill".

"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.

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". "It is the BJP which is responsible for AGP's quitting the alliance and they should step down immediately", said Mahanta. "We have also organised a mass gathering in Guwahati where people from all walks of life are expected to join", a leading daily quoted AASU president Dipanka Kumar Nath as saying.

In the 126-member Assam Assembly, the AGP has just 14 MLAs, while the ruling coalition, which now comprises the BJP with 60 MLAs and Bodoland People's Front (BPF) with 12 MLAs, has a comfortable majority. The bandh supporters vandalize the office of BJP at Golaghat.

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The Parishad members will meet on Wednesday and decide on the specific course of action if the Bill is passed. "Numerous constituents of the NEDA including Mizoram's ruling party Mizo National Front (MNF) are also opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill", Debbarma said.

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

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 bill has been opposed by large sections of people and organisations in the Northeast.

The JPC report said, "The new cut of date implies that no more migrants would be legally allowed India after December 31, 2014 and it should motivate every stakeholder including the central government and the state governments to work in unison to ensure putting in place foolproof measures to prevent illegal migrants from entering the country, especially Assam, which has borne the maximum impact of influx from Bangladesh".

The Tripura Students body reportedly also blocked the National Highway 8 while protesting against the said Bill.

"AGP has been opposing the bill even before the constitution of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and by holding protests in New Delhi when the JPC meeting was underway". The opponents feel the Bill will only aggravate a problem the state has always been grappling with: influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh since the 1971 war, who they fear will irrevocably dilute the strength of the indigenous Assamese population.

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