Union cabinet approves Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 in Parliament

Assam Police personnel remove black flags from Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti activists protesting with 69 other indigenous organisations of Assam during a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. — AFP

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.

In a state-wide Assam bandh called by the AASU and supported by several other organizations, daily life was hit hard as several private and government institutions, business houses, schools and colleges remained closed.

Assam's powerful minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is the convener of the BJP-led anti-Congress alliance - NEDA.

Mizo Student Federation President L. Ramdinliana Renthlei told the media in Aizawl that they would not allow the government to implement the new citizenship law in Mizoram.

The announcement followed AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta's statement in Guwahati that the party would withdraw support to the government in the state if the bill is passed in the Lok Sabha.

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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.

The Parishad members will meet on Wednesday and decide on the specific course of action if the Bill is passed.

Immediately after Home Minister Rajnath Singh introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said there are "flaws" in the bill that does not address the Assam Accord and requested the Speaker to send it to a select committee. "The State has since India's independence absorbed waves of migrants from present day Bangladesh and can no longer do so", AGP president Atul Bora said after returning from New Delhi on Tuesday morning.

While opposition Congress welcomed the AGP's decision, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) proposed to form a united platform taking along the regional party to fight the "communal and divisive" politics of the BJP.

Withdrawal of the AGP, which has 14 MLAs in the 126-member assembly, will not have any immediate effect on the future of the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government that still has the backing of 74 MLAs. The influential student body, All Assam Students' Union (AASU), has claimed this is the first time in 10 years that the student outfit has called a bandh.

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India has moved the Citizenship Amendment Bill for parliamentary approval on Tuesday amid massive violent protests in the north-eastern parts of the country.

"We have identified the stone pelters by seeing video footage and they will be booked soon", Assam police official Surjeet Singh Panesar said.

The Congress, TMC, CPI (M) and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming citizenship can not be given on basis of religion, as India is secular.

There has been a strong opposition in Assam and other north eastern states against the bill, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address in Silichar last Friday when he said,"The Citizenship Bill is an atonement of the wrong that was done during India's Partition".

Two tribal parties - Indigenous People's Front of Tripura and Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura strongly opposing the Citizenship Bill - are yet to confirm the identity of the injured youths.

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Opponents of the bill have burned effigies of government ministers, vandalised offices of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, torched vehicles and held naked marches on the streets against the bill. But Singh told us clearly that it will be passed in Lok Sabha tomorrow.

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