Modi cabinet clears redrafted citizenship amendment bill

Activists of the Assam Pradesh Congress committee shout slogans during a rally in protest against Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 which will provide citizenship or stay rights to minorities from Bangladesh Pakistan and Afghanistan in India in Guwahati

On Monday a small party in the BJP-led coalition in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), walked out of the alliance in protest at the bill, saying it would lead to an influx of Bangladeshi Hindus.

"We are to bring to your notice that if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is passed in Parliament, the provisions of Assam Accord and the ongoing preparation of National Register of Citizens will be totally frustrated and the Assamese language, culture and demography will be changed", the letter signed by Bora said.

"We had categorically said that we will not allow the bill to be passed at any cost and tried till the last moment", he added.

AGP president Atul Bora said it was very unfortunate that the Centre and BJP didn't listen to the people of Assam.

The decision followed an AGP delegation's meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi, who asserted that the government will ensure its passage in Lok Sabha Tuesday, Bora said. "We have also urged the Bodoland People's Front to come out of the alliance for the greater cause of the state", AGP general secretary Ramendra Narayan Kalita said.

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"Further, the Assam Accord is also meant to be made meaningless", the letter alleged.

Seeking to assuage the concerns in the Northeast, which saw an 11-hour bandh on Tuesday against the legislation, Singh said the proposed law will not be confined to Assam alone.

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 indigenous people have been opposing the bill as they feel that granting citizenship status to immigrants will erode their limited opportunities in terms of employment and other social benefits.

The letter to Shah, which was also signed by Mahanta, said, "It is reliably learnt that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in spite of our protest, including the protests resorted to by various organisations of indigenous people of Assam before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, is to be placed before Parliament".

The bill sparked a second day of protests in the northeastern state of Assam, where almost 4 million people, accused of being foreigners, were effectivelystripped of their citizenship previous year.

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"We have raised the issue in the last meeting of NEDA (North East Democratic Alliance) in Guwahati recently".

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

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Monday had alleged that the Bill was against the principle of secularism and if passed, would be "harmful" to states such as Mizoram where there are many illegal Buddhist migrants from Bangladesh.

"We did not organise any movement on Tuesday as part of the opposition to the Citizenship Bill", said Debbarma, also the IPFT's chief spokesman.

The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of Parliament, which isn't controlled by the ruling party.

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The bill has created an emotional upraise among the indigenous people of the state who accused the BJP of betraying them. Earlier on January 7, a section of protestors belonging to the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, an influential peasants' body, and other organisations staged a nude demonstration in New Delhi as the Bill was being tabled in Parliament.

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