The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader and former Assam Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has threatened to pull out of the coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam if New Delhi went ahead with passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
A report published in the The Times of India quoted Mahanta as saying in the course of an interview on a national TV channel on Saturday that the AGP will pull out of the BJP-led ruling alliance in Assam if the latter goes ahead with the controversial citizenship bill. He said the Assamese people will become a minority in their own land if the Government decides to pass the bill. “It will be a dangerous thing for the people of Assam,” he said.
Referring to the 40 lakh names that did not figure in the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Mahanta expressed fears that if the bill is passed, Hindu migrants among those 40 lakh will automatically get Indian citizenship.
The report further stated that Mahanta while maintaining that AGP’s protest against the bill as a fight for secularism, said, “India is a secular country and citizenship should not be conferred on the basis of religion. No country in the world except Israel allows citizenship on the basis of religion and this cannot be allowed.”
Meanwhile, addressing a rally in Kolkata, BJP chief Amit Shah accused the Mamata-Banerjee led Trinamool Congress (TMC) of spreading propaganda that refugees would be driven out of the country. “I assure all the refugees that nothing will happen to them,” Shah said.
The BJP-led Central Government had brought the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 for this purpose, Shah said, adding, “But Congress and TMC should clarify whether they agree with the bill or not.” The Bill, introduced in Lok Sabha in 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to the illegal Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Bill has been sent to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha before it is returned to the House for passing.
Since its introduction in 2016, AGP has been vociferously protesting against the Bill which has already invited the anger of various groups in Assam, where the final draft of the NRC, aimed at identifying illegal immigrants, especially from Bangladesh, was released last month.
Having won just 14 out of 126 seats in the 2016 Assembly election, AGP is a junior partner in the Sarbananda Sonowal Government, with three of its MLAs serving as ministers, but the party has already decided to contest the upcoming Panchayat elections alone and are yet to take a call on the 2019 Parliamentary elections.
But even BJP might find it difficult to win Lok Sabha seats in 2019 in the State, if the Centre goes ahead with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, as Assamese people see it as a demographic threat to them. There are also fears of the Assamese-versus Bengali issue reigniting in the region.