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Citizenship Bill: Protests rock Assam, Rajnath says situation under control

Chaos reigned in all northeastern states over Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan

BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

Assam Bandh against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
A view of a deserted flyover during a strike called by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) in protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Guwahati. Photo: PTI

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangaldesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan was passed by the Lok Sabha Tuesday. Agitators across the Northeast, including Assam, have been blocking roads and rail tracks, seeking revocation of the Bill.

Widespread protests against the continued in Assam on Wednesday, with agitators blocking roads and marching with their clothes off in several parts of the state.

BJP spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora resigned from the party, saying the Bill would harm the Assamese society and nullify the Assam Accord. Former Assam chief minister and AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta demanded that the BJP government in the state resign and face a fresh election. State minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, however, said the AGP had committed a "historic blunder" by not extending support to the Bill.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said that he will soon hold a meeting with the chief ministers of all Northeastern states for reviewing the current security situation and maintaining peace and security in the region.

Here are the top 10 developments around the and the protests over it

1) Protests against rock Assam

Widespread protests against the Citizenship Bill continued in Assam on Wednesday with agitators blocking roads and marching with their clothes off in several parts of the state. Agitators across the Northeast, including Assam, have been blocking roads and rail tracks, seeking revocation of the Bill.

In Guwahati, members of 70 organisations, led by Akhil Gogoi's Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, protested outside central government offices and also tried way through the barricades to the state secretariat, leading to a scuffle with police.

In Golaghat's Numaligarh area, members of Asom Aikya Manch took to the streets with their clothes off to protest against the Bill. At Digboi, the agitators tried to block a highway to stop Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal from attending Gorkha Mahatsov. They were, however, dispersed by the police. AASU activists in Nagaon waved black flags to BJP state unit president Ranjeet Das.

An 11-hour shutdown was called by AASU and NESO, and supported by over hundred organisations on Tuesday, bringing life to a standstill in Assam. The agitators have said they would not allow locally produced oil, petroleum products, coal, forest products and limestone to be taken out of the state.

Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which withdrew support to the BJP-led government in Assam on Monday, also extended its support to the bandh.

ALSO READ: Saikia urges BJP MLAs opposed to Citizenship Bill to resign

2) Don't panic over Citizenship Bill: Manipur CM

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Wednesday urged people not to panic over the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, saying "a state government does not necessarily has to go always according to the directives of the Centre".

"We had discussed the Bill in the last Cabinet meeting and there will be further discussions," he said, adding that the state government shall never go against the wishes of the people.

3) PM Modi hails Citizenship Amendment Bill

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that the Citizenship Amendment Bill will not have any adverse impact on the rights of northeast states' people, and termed the Bill as 'historic.'

Prime Minister Modi, while addressing a rally in Maharashtra's Solapur, said: "The historic Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. I want to assure the people of northeast and Assam that their rights will not be compromised with this legislation." Hailing the Bill, Prime Minister Modi said that now a path is going to be opened for Indian refugees living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh for getting the citizenship of India.

4) Rajnath to hold meeting with CMs of Northeastern states

Amid the outcry in the Rajya Sabha over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said that he will soon hold a meeting with the chief ministers of all Northeastern states for reviewing the current security situation and maintaining peace and security in the region.

"We have received some reports and some members of the House have informed us that some minor incidents of violence were reported in Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya during the Bandh yesterday over Citizenship Amendment Bill," Singh said in the Rajya Sabha. "The situation is under control now and we are keeping a constant vigil on the current security situation in the northeast. For maintaining peace and harmony in the region, we will take all necessary steps along with the state governments. I am personally in contact with all the chief ministers and will soon have a meeting with them," he added.

5) Withdraw Citizenship Bill: CPI to govt

The CPI on Wednesday claimed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was totally against the secular ethos of the Constitution and demanded that it be withdrawn. The CPI in a statement alleged, "The Bill which grants everybody except Muslims citizenship is totally against the secular ethos of the Constitution and is being pushed by the Narendra Modi government at the fag end of its term only to polarise voters for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections."

6) BJP's Northeast allies not in conformity with it over Citizenship Bill

As the BJP's heightened efforts to clear the way for Citizenship (Amendment) Bill cost the party its Assam ally AGP, speculations are rife that other NDA partners in neighbouring Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are also not in conformity with the saffron party over the sensitive issue. The saffron outfit is in power in the Northeast after entering into alliance with regional parties along with its own strong numbers.

The Citizenship Bill, however, is turning out to be a major thaw in the BJP's equation with its allies in this part of the country. The issue appears to have disturbed many of its northeast allies, which may not be good for the saffron party, which is eyeing the vital 25 Lok Sabha seats from the seven sister states in the general elections this year.

ALSO READ: Citizenship Bill biggest betrayal: former Meghalaya CM

7) RS chairman urged not to allow placing of Citizenship Bill

An organisation of eminent citizens of Assam on Wednesday urged the Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu not to allow placing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Upper House to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. "We appeal to you as the constitutional guide of the rules and conventions of the Rajya Sabha that the ruling party should be stopped from placing the Bill for amending the Citizenship Act, 1955," Chairman Dr Hiren Gohain and Convenor Manjit Mahanta of the Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill said in a letter to the RS chairman.

8) Students of Assam varsities & colleges boycott classes over Citizenship Bill

Students of two state-run universities and over 15 colleges across Assam decided on Wednesday to boycott their classes indefinitely to protest against the passage of the Citizenship Bill in the Lok Sabha. The Dibrugarh University students' union also banned the entry of any member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party into the campus. The student bodies at Tezpur University, Jorhat Medical College, Pub Kamrup College, JB College, DCB College and others have held protests in their campuses, although no decision to boycott classes has been taken.

9) Citizenship Amendment Bill for whole country, not confined to northeast: Rajnath

Commenting on the reports of violence in the northeastern states as a result of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 being passed in the Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday informed the Rajya Sabha that "misconception" is being spread about the Bill. He said the Bill, which seeks to remove hurdles in the way of eligible migrants from six minority groups from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan getting Indian citizenship, was not confined to Assam or the northeastern states but will apply to all states and union territories.

"The burden of these persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam and northeastern states alone would not have to bear the entire burden and the government is committed to providing all help to the state government and the people of Assam. The purpose is that the migrants facing persecution anywhere in the country can apply for Indian citizenship. After that they can live in any state of the country like an Indian citizen," the minister said.

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

10) Ram Madhav allays fears on Citizenship Bill

Talking about the Citizenship Amendment Bill, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav said: "The Bill is not any state or region specific. It is for the entire country."

Madhav said that in the last so many decades India has seen the phenomena of minorities from the neighbourhood, especially from Pakistan and Afghanistan, coming into the country as they have nowhere else to go. "They seek refuge in India. It is India's duty to extend citizenship facility to them but it is not for any one region. It is coming with a number of conditions so that no single state will be unnecessarily burdened or unnecessarily subjected to demographic problem," he added.

Madhav reiterated that the Citizenship Amendment Bill extends to those who came between 1971 and 2015. The minorities from Bangladesh will have a right to claim citizenship. "Not all Bengalis living in Assam are outsiders, and not all of them are from Bangladesh. In any case, until 1971 those who had come into Assam from Bangladesh have been included in the NRC," Madhav said.

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 12:45 IST