India's Move to Legitimise Migrants From Neighbouring Countries Sparks Protests


In their dissent note, Congress Rajya Sabha members Bhubaneswar Kalita and Pradip Bhattacharya said on certain grounds, the bill may create ethnic divisions in Assam and the Northeast.

Demonstrators in the state are angry about the bill not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers from elsewhere, accusing the migrants of taking away jobs from indigenous groups.

The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 was passed in Lok Sabha on Tuesday even as an Assam and North East region bandh was called against it.

A year ago the Assam government published a draft citizens' register that left off four million people unable to prove they were living there before 1971, when millions fled Bangladesh's war of independence. The BJP's allies like the Shiv Sena, Janata Dal (United), as well as the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in Assam, have staunchly opposed it. He said the NDA government was hasty in granting ST status to six communities in Assam as a political ploy ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The Union Home Minister also clarified that the Citizenship Amendment Bill is not meant only for Assam but has been drafted for the betterment of migrants coming from a particular country. Mizoram and Meghalaya governments have also opposed the bill by adopting a resolution against it in their respective cabinet meetings. "The Assamese and other indigenous peoples feel betrayed by the Narendra Modi government, which seems hell bent upon making Assam a dumping ground for foreigners thereby threatening our existence", AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattarcharya said.

A meeting of the AGP was held in Guwahati on Friday on the issue and it was decided that if the Bill is passed in Lok Sabha, "we will withdraw support to the government in the state", Mahanta said earlier in the day. He said it is also for migrants who have come from the Western borders and have settled down in Rajasthan, Punjab and Delhi. Another group of people protested outside the Assam Bhavan in Chanakyapuri, waving black flags and raising slogans.

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In its 440-page report, the panel headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal said, "Display of such supportive and humanitarian approach on the part of the government towards the minorities who fled the three countries, including Bangladesh, due to religious persecution is quite appreciable".

"We tried our best to convince the Modi government not to pursue the Bill that goes against the constitutional provisions, besides being potentially risky for the indigenous people of Assam".

Ruling BJP's ally IPFT's Assistant General Secretary Mangal Debbarma told IANS that they have extended moral support to the NESO's shutdown in the northeastern region comprising seven states, excluding Sikkim.

"We, therefore, can not remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the Modi government".

AGP president Atul Bora had last month written to BJP chief Amit Shah, saying the party will have no alternative but to "repudiate the existing alliance" in case of such an eventuality. Later, opposing the bill, members of Congress and TMC staged a walkout.

The Bill was originally introduced in 2016 and was later sent to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which submitted its report on Monday.