Simmering tension revisited Assam after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election manifesto released on Monday vowed to pass the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament if it comes back to power at the Centre.
Although the undercurrent has always been there in Assam over the contentious bill, the issue was thrown to the back-burner after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government failed to get the Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year.
The BJP, however, have been clearly stating that the bill will be passed once the party comes to power after the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress, on the other hand, is fighting the forthcoming Lok Sabah elections in Assam promising to scrap the bill.
The opposition Congress has made the Bill one of its main poll planks in the Northeast. The party has been highlighting how they have resisted the Bill and claimed that it is due to their pressure that the BJP failed to pass the Bill in Rajya Sabha.
With the BJP’s poll manifesto incorporating the Citizenship Bill, organizations like the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) reiterated its opposition to the Bill and said that any move to bring the bill back would be firmly resisted.
Hundreds of organizations across the north-eastern states including the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) have organised series of protests against the Bill in different parts of the region.
Different civil society organizations and individuals have also rallied behind these students’ bodies opposing the Bill, which proposes to make minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
“The bill is a threat to the culture and identity of indigenous people of Northeast India. We have resisted the bill in past and will stoutly do so in future. The bill is also communal and against the Constitution of India. We will not accept the bill. We will intensify our agitation once again,” said AASU adviser Dr Samujjal Bhattacharyya while talking to media on Monday.
Speaking on the same vein, AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said, “The BJP’s decision to bring the controversial Bill back shows the party’s respect for the people of the Northeast. The party has seen the agitation against the Bill in the region and yet they have decided to bring it back.
“On April 3, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that his party would ensure that Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is never passed. The Bill is an assault on the language, culture and tradition of Northeast India,” he added.