Govt’s efforts to grant citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants ‘appreciable’: JPC

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

Protests-Support over Citizenship Bill storms Silchar

Home Minister Rajnath Singh of the ruling Bharitiya Janata Party denied that the Citizenship Amendment bill which he introduced was discriminatory.

The BJP says it is in favor of institutionalizing "constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards" to the ethnic Assamese, but also wants to give citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh as the growth in the Hindu population of Assam had been overtaken by that of Muslims. "The bill may foment more trouble in the days to come because, in the guise of democracy and majoritarianism, the central government has totally forsaken the very sanctity of our survival", Dai said.

While addressing a protest meeting against the Citizenship Bill in Guwahati on Monday, Mr Mahanta stated that his party was all set to walk out of the alliance with the BJP. Protesters had blocked the Assam-Agartala National Highway, a senior police officer said.

Accusing the BJP of adopting an anti-Assam policy, Mahanta said, "Let the BJP form a new government alone". The issue has already left parts of the northeast, including Assam, simmering, with the Asom Gana Parishad breaking off its alliance with the BJP and walking out of the Sarbananda Sonowal government. "But Singh told us clearly that it will be passed in Lok Sabha tomorrow", Bora said, adding Singh was requested not to ignore the public sentiment only for votes but it is unfortunate that they did not listen.

While speaking in Silchar, Assam on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated the Centre's commitment to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years, even if they do not possess the necessary documents.

The Conrad Sangma-led coalition government in Meghalaya too had opposed the Bill but desisted from calling off its ties with the BJP, which is a minor player with two MLAs.

Noting that the bill has to go through the Rajya Sabha, which has been extended till Wednesday, Bhattacharya expressed apprehension that the BJP might try to get it passed there as well.

There was widespread protests in the state against the bill and, for the first time, the media was also out on the street to register their protest against it, the Assam agriculture minister claimed.

He further said the party will now go to the people and work at the grassroot level and "we appeal to those with whom we had worked for years in the AASU (All Assam Students Union) to protect the interest of the indigenous population (and) to come and join us". "We now regret entering into an alliance with the BJP". "Our party was formed in 1985 with this promise of freeing Assam from illegal migrants from Bangladesh", AGP president Atul Bora said.

In its 440-page report, the panel headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal said, "Display of such supportive and humanitarian approach on the part of the government towards the minorities who fled the three countries, including Bangladesh, due to religious persecution is quite appreciable". While the AGP broke off the alliance, allies Shiv Sena and JD (U) opposed the legislation. 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.

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