India passes contentious citizenship bill that excludes Muslims

India passes contentious citizenship bill that excludes Muslims

BJP's alliance partner in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad or Assam People's Party, quit the coalition government on Tuesday in protest against the new bill.

The BJP has 61 members and the party has support from 12 MLAs of the Bodoland People's Front and the sole Independent member. In the panchayat elections held in the state in December, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party.

"We're trying to save Assam from Jinnah", BJP leader and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, referring to Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was instrumental in carving Muslim-dominated Pakistan out of India after winning independence from British colonial rule in 1947. 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. "The AGP protested against the bill ever since it was proposed", the AGP founder said. "Assam alone would not have to bear the entire burden and Government of India is committed to give all help needed to the state government and people of Assam", Rajnath Singh said.

That could hurt the BJP's goal of sharply increasing its parliamentary seats from the northeast region of the country in the national election. The AASU declined to be part of the committee until the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 is scrapped.

Political parties in the North-East, especially regional outfits, allege that the Bill is an attempt to make illegal migrants eligible for Indian citizenship on the basis of religion.

"If the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill comes into effect, we will have to accept another two million people who have been identified as foreigners in the National Register of Citizens".

The bill is likely to be taken up in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

India's lower house of Parliament approved a bill Tuesday that would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslims who entered India illegally, allegedly after fleeing persecution in several neighboring nations, despite protests against the legislation in the populous northeast that brought the region to a near standstill.

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Three AGP ministers in the state cabinet - Bora (agriculture), Keshab Mahanta (water resources) and Phanibhushan Choudhury (food and civil supplies) - will tender their resignations and complete the other related formalities on Wednesday, the party chief said. 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.

Shops, markets, financial institutions kept their shutters down, educational institutions, private offices remained closed. Attendance in government offices was thin as the employees had difficulty in reaching their workplace in the absence of adequate public transport, the sources said.

Meanwhile, member organisations of the NESO in other states such as Mizo Zirlai Pawal (MZP), All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU), Khasi Students Union (KSU), Garo Students Union (GSU), Naga Students' Federation (NSF), All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) and Twipra Students Federation (TSF) are also supporting the bandh. There were also reports of some vehicles being vandalized.

"There is no confusion about our stand".

The Meghalaya Cabinet has unanimously opposed the Bill.

"We will oppose the Bill in a bigger way now".

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

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