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Indian MPs pass contentious citizenship bill

Activists of the Assam Pradesh Congress committee shout slogans during a rally in protest against Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 which will provide citizenship or stay rights to minorities from Bangladesh Pakistan and Afghanistan in India in Guwahati

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Monday ended its alliance in Assam with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.

The bandh evoked a response in the Bengali-majority Barak valley also, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 4, had announced that the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 will be passed as soon as possible in the parliament as a penance for past injustices.

"Our leaders met Home Minister (Rajnath Singh) and expressed that AGP is going to break the alliance", AGP spokesperson Dilip Patgiri told ANI.

Introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016, the Bill seeks to enable Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents or those whose valid documents expired in recent years to acquire Indian citizenship through the process of naturalisation. The Assamese now feel this bill - giving citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh - will make a large section of illegal immigrants claimants to the state's resources.

AGP has three ministers in the state but they have not resigned yet. The Union cabinet earlier in the day cleared the redrafted Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, officials said.

The chief minister had assured us that the Centre will not go against the interest of the Assamese people but it is "unfortunate that he did not do enough to stall the bill", the AGP president said.

The bill sparked a second day of protests in the northeastern state of Assam, where almost 4 million people, accused of being foreigners, were effectivelystripped of their citizenship past year.

"We decided for an alliance with the BJP based on understanding on the Assam Accord and other issues".

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.

They also burned effigies of the prime minister.

The BJP had promised to ensure the passage of the bill in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

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.

"We have made our best efforts to convince the BJP leadership about the negative impact of the bill and the stand of the people of Assam".

Same was the scene in most of the capital cities of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya where the bandh had substantial impact. Besides the Congress and the CPI (M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF), BJP allies such as Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) and National People's Party (NPP) in Meghalaya and most other regional parties are strongly opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, asking for its withdrawal.

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 the Shiv Sena, and opposition parties. 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.