Amid intensifying protests, a total of 11 political parties, including 10 from the north-eastern states and Janata Dal (United), unanimously opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, on Tuesday. Most of the opposing parties are NDA allies, including the ruling parties of Meghalaya, Manipur,
The meeting in Guwahati was convened by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma in association with recent NDA-defector Asom Gana
The leaders at the meeting have reportedly decided to send a delegation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind to abort the proposed amendment.
If the Centre decides to go forward with implementing the bill, the next course of action will be chalked out accordingly, Sangma said on Tuesday. He later clarified that the alliance is “issue-based” and not “politically motivated”, implying that the allies not thinking of disrupting their alliance with the BJP-led NDA in an election year.
The 10 political parties that participated in the meeting from across the north-east were — the Mizo National Front (MNF), the United Democratic Party (UDP), the AGP, the Naga People’s Front (NPF), the National People’s Party (NPP), the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), the Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), the People’s Democratic Front (PDF), the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and the Khnam.
Overview of the controversy
The Citizenship Bill with its amendments passed the lower house of the parliament on January 8, sparking widespread protests and polarising people across the north-east for granting citizenship on the basis of religion amidst the ongoing NRC controversy in Assam.
Offering nationality to refugees belonging to non-Muslim minority communities from
Read more:Hindutva politics in Assam
What does the Bill ensure?
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955. In doing so, it would extend
Rana Ayyub called this Bill a “transparent attempt to stoke religious polarization before general elections” in the Washington Post. It is a move that makes it clear that Muslims are not welcome in India.
Noise in the north-east
Besides civilians, several indigenous
The Mizo Zirlai
The same week, senior journalist Manjit Mahanta, Sahitya Akademi awardee and RTI activist Hiren Gohain, and KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi were slapped with sedition charges for highlight “that citizenship should be on the basis of secular principles, and the rightful demand of the Assamese people on the Citizenship Amendment Bill must be achieved by democratic means”.
“The gist of my speech was that if all democratic struggle by different parties and
Many National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies in the north-east have expressed their objection to the Centre’s Citizenship Bill. The Asom Gana Parishad has already quit the alliance over the matter.
Atul Bora, President of AGP said on Tuesday, that his party had tried its best to convince the BJP that the Bill was against the interest of the people in the region. “I approached Home Minister (Rajnath Singh) but he told me that the Bill will be cleared at any cost,” Bora said.
Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur
BJP leadership in Meghalaya and Manipur also announced they were opposed to the move.
The BJP rules Manipur in alliance with the National People’s Party (NPP), Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), all of which have claimed that the idea of religion-based citizenship does not resonate with their constituents.
Zoramthanga’s Mizo National Front is part of the BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA in Mizoram.
Similarly, in Meghalaya, the ruling National People’s Party (NPP), the United Democratic Party (UDP), the BJP and the Hills State Peoples Democratic Party have all said they are not on board with the Citizenship Bill.
Nagaland was the latest to join the fray on January 28.
“Nagaland enjoys protection under Article 371(A). However, we rejected the Bill in solidarity with the other north-eastern States,” Chingwang Konyak, chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance containing the BJP, told the media.
Other NDA allies, such as
Most opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, and CPI(M) have steadfastly opposed the proposal of granting citizenship on religious grounds, further arguing that the move would interfere with the process of updating and reverifying the NRC, perhaps even rendering it redundant.
Ahead of the meeting on Tuesday, Modi promised to protect the interests of Assam. Taking to Twitter, he also thanked the people of the state for supporting the BJP in the elections to three tribal autonomous councils.
The NRC issue
The Bill must be seen in the context of the controversial final draft of the NRC, according to which, 40 lakh of the Assamese population risk losing citizenship. Updated for the first time since 1951 to account for illegal migration from Bangladesh, the draft has left out 40,07,708 people and has refused to justify the large-scale exemption.
The list, which is probably one of the biggest exercises in disenfranchisement in the world, is replete with discrepancies which only exacerbates mass confusion, as the centre refuses to reveal the basis on which so many names were left off the list. Many claim it is less anti-immigrant, and more anti-Muslim and anti-Bengali.
However, if the amended Citizenship Bill passes in Rajya Sabha, non-Muslims left off the NRC will qualify for citizenship by naturalisation. The same cannot be said for Muslims.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.