Assam BJP Spokesperson Mehdi Alom Bora Resigns

Protesters against the bill have accused settlers of taking away jobs from indigenous groups

A day after Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) exited the BJP-led coalition government in Assam over the Centre's stand on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, the saffron party seems to have risked its ties with regional parties across the region.

Critics have called the proposal, contained in the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, blatantly anti-Muslim and an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to boost its Hindu voter base ahead of a general election due by May. Assam's people will never allow this bill to be implemented. "Our party was formed in 1985 with this promise of freeing Assam from illegal migrants from Bangladesh", AGP president Atul Bora said.

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. He also said, the Centre has taken several measures to implement the Assam Accord.

Samujjal Bhattacharyya from NESO said people in the region would not "accept the political injustice perpetrated by the BJP".

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

Police said the situation turned unruly suddenly after a group of people shouting slogans against the Bill gathered in front of the BJP office in Amolapatty in Dibrugarh and ransacked it. As the government did not heed to the demand, the Congress staged a walkout.

The Union Cabinet on Monday cleared the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said.

Asked if the National People's Party will put out of the BJP-led NDA government, the NPP Chief said: "We have been very clear to the NDA that this is something we will not support".

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The fiery opposition to the measure reflects the complex nature of religious and ethnic identity in Assam, a state already embroiled in a separate citizenship controversy.

The AGP had placed its reservations on the Bill before the Joint Parliamentary Committee when the panel had visited the state and also tried to mobilise opinion against the Bill among NDA constituents such as the JD (U) and Shiv Sena, and opposition parties.

Meanwhile, ignoring the ongoing, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his deputy Himanta Biswa Sarma laid the foundation stone of a new medical college in Tinsukia where they alleged that just a section of vested interests was trying to vitiate the atmosphere of the state in order to block development.

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".

In his dissent note, CPI-M member Mohammad Salim said the Indian citizenship flows from the Constitution that grants it as a fundamental right and the right can not be religion specific or country of origin specific.

The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of Parliament, which isn't controlled by the ruling party.

Though the AGP leadership is tight-lipped on their next step, they said that opposing the Bill and preventing it from becoming an Act was the ultimate goal at the moment.

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