Assam Congress divided, seeks referendum over bill

Assam Congress divided, seeks referendum over bill

Since May 7, when the Joint Parliamentary Committee headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal visited Guwahati to hold a public hearing regarding the Bill, there have been widespread protests in the state.

The objective of the JPC to meet various stakeholders was to obtain feedback from the migrants, if any, belonging to religious minority communities of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh i.e Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians residing in the State of Meghalaya and other stakeholders in connection with the examination of "The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016".

Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has broken his silence on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that has created an uproar in the state over the past one week. "The BJP will have to chose if it wants to be with indigenous people or Bangladeshis", said Sammujjal Bhattacharya, chief advisor to the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), the powerful students' body that led the Assam agitation of the 1980s. They should have been living for six years in India to be eligible for citizenship.

Meanwhile, the Asom Gana Parishad, an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, said it would pull out of the coalition if the bill was passed, The Hindu reported. "People want we should quit the government", said Mahanta. At a press conference on Saturday, Sonowal said he will step down as Chief Minister if he failed to protect the rights of the citizens of Assam. "We will not take any decision that goes against the people of Assam".

"On July 16, 2014, the then Congress government had taken a decision at a Cabinet meeting to grant asylum/citizenship to the (non-Muslim) immigrants of Bangladesh who migrated to Assam in the face of religious persecution". "The migrants should be distributed across India and Assam should not be made to bear their burden", he said.

"This time, people have been given top priority", he said.

"The JPC has also not asked for our opinion".

Assam is always a sensitive state for its foreigner's issues. The Accord marked the end of anti-foreigner movement - anyone who entered the state after the midnight of March 24, 1971, would be considered an illegal immigrant, irrespective of their faith.

While the hearing was in progress, Khasi Students Union activists staged a lightning protest in the premises of the venue, and raised banners and placards to register their protest against the bill.

While welcoming the decision of Conrad Sangma-led Meghalaya government to oppose the Bill, the AAPSU questioned the stance of the Arunachal government on the issue.

However, in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley, a majority of the 315 opinions submitted to the JPC were in favour of the Bill while protests have been taking place on a daily basis in the Brahmaputra valley against the Bill.

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