Thousands protest controversial citizenship bill in India's Assam

Protesters against the bill have accused settlers of taking away jobs from indigenous groups

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.

The proposal has been hotly contested in Assam, a hilly state that has witnessed violence between settlers and indigenous groups, who say they have lost land and jobs to the newer entrants.

During a press conference called in Guwahati on Tuesday, former CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said that the BJP has "no moral right" to be in power.

The proposed Citizenship Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. "We therefore can not remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the Modi government", AGP president Atul Bora said.

Assam's people will never allow this bill to be implemented. In Dehi Trinamool Congress MPs staged a protest in Parliament against the Citizenship Bill. The party had also taken out a rally against the bill in October.

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.

"Hence, if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is meant to be passed in the Parliament we will have no other alternative except to repudiate the existing alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party", it stated. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has withdrawn its support to ruling BJP in Assam over the Citizenship Amendment Bill. "The JPC has today submitted its reports over the bill before the Parliament", Atul Bora said.

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"The BJP had a pre-poll alliance with us before the 2016 Assembly polls".

Had the AGP not partnered with the BJP, the saffron party would have not bagged so many seats in the Assembly election and formed a government in the state, he added.

The supporters of the 70 organisations said they would hold protests in front of offices and installations of Oil India Ltd and ONGC across the state. "The AGP protested against the bill ever since it was proposed", the AGP founder said. It would grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsi and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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.

Police and security forces deployed in Dibrugarh had to fire gunshots in the air and also tear gas to disperse a mob that went unruly in the town, which is home to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. "We were the first state government and cabinet to come out with an official resolution that we are against the bill", Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma told journalists on Monday night.

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".

The North East Students' Union (NESO) - the umbrella student body representing all the states - has also called for the bandh across seven northeastern states, which is being supported by the AGP, the Congress and 30 other ethnic outfits from Assam.

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