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Meghalaya NGOs oppose Citizenship (Amendment) Bill before JPC

Prafulla Kumar Mahanta in Guwahati on Thursday

Since May 7, when the Joint Parliamentary Committee headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal visited Guwahati to hold a public hearing regarding the Bill, there have been widespread protests in the state.

A key amendment in the Bill seeks to grant citizenship to people without valid documents from six minority communities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India. "I urge all to help and cooperate as we the people of Assam are collectively responsible for ensuring peace and order in the state", Sonowal said. "We will organise the signature campaign across Assam till May 30", Asom Gana Parishad President Atul Bora said.

"We will have discussions with all stakeholders after the NRC list comes out and then take a decision on the proposed bill", Dass said.

"Even without passing of the Bill, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are crossing over to the region be it Assam, Tripura or any other state", he said while maintaining that the North East region can not take the burden of Bangladeshis anymore since the region took the entire load of Bangladeshis fleeing their country during their liberation war.

Yesterday, as posters with "Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is missing" mushroomed across Guwahati, Mr Sonowal said, "I have no reason to continue as the Chief Minister if I can't protect the interests of the people".

It was Sonowal who had gone to the Supreme Court much before he became the chief minister to get the IMDT Act scrapped as it was not much successful, the minister said.

"I appeal to all to maintain peace so that unwanted situations do not develop in the state. It was due to his efforts that saw the IMDT (Illegal Migrants' Determination Tribunal) Act, which made detection of immigrants hard, being struck down (by the Supreme Court)", the state's Industries Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told reporters in Guwahati.

The new bill breaches the clauses of Assam Accord which stated that all illegal foreigners who came to the state after 1971 from Bangladesh, irrespective of their religion, have to be deported.

In the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley, a majority of the 315 opinions submitted to the JPC were in favour of the Bill, and people carrying placards formed a long human chain in its support.

Barring Mizoram, the other six states in the northeast - Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Sikkim - are now with the BJP, which would make it especially tough for the party to garner support as the general elections scheduled next year draws close. One day before the JPC visited Shillong on May 9, the Conrad Sangma government in Meghalaya unanimously made a decision to oppose the Bill.