Thousands protest controversial citizenship bill in India's Assam

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

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"We tried to convince the Centre that the bill was against the Assam Accord and will nullify the ongoing updating of the National Register of Citizens", Bora told reporters after the meeting.

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.

India's lower house of parliament has approved a bill that would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslim immigrants, sparking protests that brought the country's populous northeast to a near standstill. Reacting to Centre's decision clearing the bill on Monday, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma said the state government has passed a resolution in the cabinet (against the bill) and "that is the most aggressive stand any government has taken".

Assam's people will never allow this bill to be implemented. "Along with AGP, now we appeal all political parties to come out and join the protest (against the Citizenship Bill)". Later, opposing the bill, members of Congress and TMC staged a walkout. Members of some Assam-based organisations protested in the nude in Tinsukia and also near the Parliament in Delhi.

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.

In Nagaland, the cabinet of the NDPP-BJP alliance government has chose to ask the Centre to reconsider the bill. It has faced allround resistance in Assam, including from NDA ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which quit the BJP-led Assam government.

Bora and the AGP leadership had promised that they would exit the alliance if the BJP advanced with the bill.

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.

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As reported in the IANS, Assam witnessed a total shutdown on Tuesday even as strike supporters ransacked a BJP office in Dibrugarh town.

"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.

There are three ministers from the AGP in the current Assam government.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPM and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion and that it is unconstitutional. It would grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsi and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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.

Saying that the bill was against the principle of secularism, the CM told mediapersons, "If passed, the bill would be harmful to states like Mizoram where there is a large number of illegal Buddhist migrants from Bangladesh".

BJP allies Shiv Sena and JD-U have announced that they would oppose the bill in Parliament.

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