Bill to be tabled in Lok Sabha today; nude protests in Delhi, Assam.
Guwahati/New Delhi: The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) said on Monday it has decided to exit the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government in Assam over the Centre’s stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, even as protests continued across the border state and spilled on to Delhi with some demonstrators stripping naked outside Parliament.
The proposed legislation, an election promise made by the BJP in 2014, was cleared by the Narendra Modi-led Cabinet on Monday. The Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian nationality to people from minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don’t possess any proper document, is expected to be tabled in Lok Sabha today.
The AGP’s move to snap ties with the BJP, just a few months before general elections, will have little impact on chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s government, but it adds to the perception about the saffron party’s inability to keep its allies.
The AGP’s decision was announced by its president and state agriculture minister Atul Bora after his meeting with Union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi. He said that his party has conveyed its decision to the BJP and that three AGP ministers, including him, will submit their resignation soon.
“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. But the BJP has decided to go ahead with the Bill, leaving us with no option but to quit the alliance,” Mr Bora said after meeting Mr Singh.
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 AGP and the BJP had forged an alliance in the state just before the 2016 Assembly elections with the sole objective of keeping the Congress out of power by preventing division of anti-Congress votes.
The Union Cabinet’s move to clear the proposed legislation came within hours of the presentation in Lok Sabha of a report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) examining the Bill that was first introduced in Parliament in 2016.
Large sections of people in Assam and other northeastern states have been protesting against the Bill, saying it would nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after 1971 should be deported.
Protests erupted across Assam and in Delhi on Monday, with some agitators stripping in public over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and tabling of the JPC report on it in Parliament.
Members of Asom Yuba Chatra Parishad staged a nude protest against the Bill at Tinsukia in Upper Assam, and in Delhi, too, some of the demonstrators stripped naked outside Parliament.
In Delhi, about 10 protesters belonging to the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) from Assam, carrying placards and raising slogans, stripped naked. They were immediately removed from the highly secured Vijay Chowk. Another group of people protested outside the Assam Bhavan in Chanakyapuri, waving black flags and raising slogans.
Four Rajya Sabha members of the Congress, led by APCC president Ripun Borah, also staged protest outside the main gate of Parliament against the Bill.
Former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and leader of the AGP had been if it went ahead with an amendment aimed at allowing Hindu illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries to stay. The AGP is against illegal immigrants regardless of religion.
While addressing a protest meeting against the Citizenship Bill in Guwahati on Monday, Mr Mahanta stated that his party was all set to walk out of the alliance with the BJP.
“Our alliance with the BJP is a pre-poll alliance, so the BJP should have the morality to face the verdict of the people,” Mr Mahanta said.
The relationship between BJP and AGP had been on the rocks for the past few months following differences over the Citizenship Bill.
The AGP, which was born out of the six-year-long bloody anti-immigrants’ agitation of early 1980s spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), had been under pressure to pull out of the government.
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.
AASU and several organisations also observed Monday as a black day. 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.
Meanwhile, ignoring the ongoing, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his deputy Himanta Biswa Sarma laid the foundation stone of a new medical college in Tinsukia where they alleged that just a section of vested interests was trying to vitiate the atmosphere of the state in order to block development.