Indian MPs pass contentious citizenship bill that excludes Muslims

Protesters set fire to effigies of the prime minister and vandalised two BJP offices

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.

With the citizenship bill slated to come up in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the last day of the winter session, opposition parties are planning on "dramatic" protests in Parliament, against the bill being introduced or passed as the numbers are stacked in favour of the treasury benches in the Lower House.

Indigenous people from the state of Assam feel that immigrants who are already eating into their limited resources and rights will benefit further once they are legitimized by citizenship.

The Bill is aimed to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

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

The letter, whose copy was given by Bora to reporters at a press conference on December 10, stated that the AGP is fully committed to the implementation of the Assam Accord of 1985. "But the BJP has chose to go ahead with the Bill, leaving us with no option but to quit the alliance", Mr Bora said after meeting Mr Singh.

The decision followed an AGP delegation's meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi, who asserted that the government will ensure its passage in Lok Sabha Tuesday, Bora said.

Suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group, said the citizenship bill was "absolutely unconstitutional as it targets specific groups".

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Thirty ethnic organisations, besides 69 other groups along with the KMSS, have extended their support to the "bandh". "It's a conspiracy of the BJP against the indigenous people of Assam and the region", said Bhattacharya.

The AGP with 14 seats in the assembly had entered into an alliance with the BJP before the 2014 polls and was opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Bill since the beginning.

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

Earlier in November a year ago, several protests were witnessed across the state of Assam against the bill.

Most northeastern parties including the allies of BJP, opposition Congress and Left parties have strongly opposed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, saying "the Bill is against the fundamental aspect of the Indian constitution".

The opposers also feel that the Bill undermines the ongoing updation of the 1951 National Registry of Citizenship (NRC), which, like the Assam Accord, also uses the March 24, 1971 cut-off date to determine a list of Assamese citizens. The Union cabinet earlier in the day cleared the redrafted Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, officials said. "The beneficiaries of the bill can reside in any state of the country".

Meanwhile, member organisations of the NESO in other states such as Mizo Zirlai Pawal (MZP), All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU), Khasi Students Union (KSU), Garo Students Union (GSU), Naga Students' Federation (NSF), All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) and Twipra Students Federation (TSF) are also supporting the bandh.

JD (U) national general secretary Sanjay Verma said his party will oppose the bill because it will do no good to the identity and culture of Assam and the northeast.

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