LS passes contentious citizenship bill; Oppn calls it 'divisive', 'flawed'

Assam Police personnel remove black flags from Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti activists protesting with 69 other indigenous organisations of Assam during a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. — AFP

Assam Police personnel remove black flags from Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti activists protesting with 69 other indigenous organisations of Assam during a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. — AFP

The bill, instead of resolving the long-going crisis over alleged illegal immigration in Assam, seems to be making the situation more volatile.

"This is the biggest betrayal especially against the people of the North East by the conspirators in Delhi and all other associates who due to their greed of power chose to keep quiet and not fight to protect the interest of the people", he said in a video-taped statement. Protesters had blocked the Assam-Agartala National Highway, a senior police officer said.

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.

Undercutting Congress' arguments that the bill was discriminatory, Singh quoted former PMs Jawaharlal Nehru and Manmohan Singh to buttress his argument that India has the "moral obligation" to shelter refugees from neighbouring countries.

The protests got a new lease of life after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Bill would be passed, during an election rally in Silchar in Assam recently.

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.

"They have no place to go except India", Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament on Tuesday.

Business establishments, commercial firms and other shops also did not open their shutters extending full support to the bandh.

He said no right thinking politician, irrespective of his political affiliation in the North East, is in agreement with this Bill.

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The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI (M) and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion and that it is unconstitutional.

With the Winter Session of the Lok Sabha set to end on Tuesday, it is uncertain whether the bill would be taken up for consideration in the lower house in this session.

The controversial bill would grant citizenship to select groups - including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, but not Muslims - who have moved from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and lived in India for at least six years.

Earlier on January 7, a section of protestors belonging to the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, an influential peasants' body, and other organisations staged a nude demonstration in New Delhi as the Bill was being tabled in Parliament.

Saying that the bill was against the principle of secularism, the CM told mediapersons, "If passed, the bill would be harmful to states like Mizoram where there is a large number of illegal Buddhist migrants from Bangladesh".

Police and security forces deployed in Dibrugarh had to fire gunshots in the air and also tear gas to disperse a mob that went unruly in the town, which is home to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

The BJP has already declared its Mission 21 - party chief Amit Shah's target of winning 21 of 25 Lok Sabha seats - in the region in 2019.

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.

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