JD(U), BJP allies in NE to fight Citizenship Bill

JD(U), BJP allies in NE to fight Citizenship Bill

Leaders of the regional parties in the Northeast in a convention in Guwahati on Tuesday. Photo by Manash Das

Eleven regional parties, including eight, which helped BJP’s surge in the Northeast since 2014 on Tuesday joined hands to fight against the NDA’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 together.

Nitish Kumar-led JD (U), another ally of the NDA also extended support saying it was a united to fight against a ‘communal bill.’

A convention of the parties, which was attended by Meghalaya and Mizoram chief ministers decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind soon with a plea to withdraw the bill. “We will urge them to withdraw the bill as it is against interests of the people of the Northeast and their sentiments. In the unfortunate scenario of the government failing to respond to the call of the people and moves ahead with the bill, the convention decided to meet again for the future course of action and the way forward,” Meghalaya chief minister and NPP leader, Conrad K Sangma told reporters here after the meeting.

The convention also decided to form a committee soon, which would meet the parties supporting their cause of opposing the bill.

Assam and rest of the Northeast roared in protest as the bill seeks to allow ‘persecuted’ non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan till December 2014 to apply for Indian citizenship, after a stay of six years. Most in the region are protesting against the bill saying the Northeast would bear the maximum brunt if more ‘illegal migrants’ are given citizenship. They fear that the indigenous people would lose their ethnic identity.

The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8 but remains pending in the Rajya Sabha. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a regional party, quit the BJP-led Assam government on January 7, while MNF said it would not hesitate to leave North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a BJP-floated forum of its allies if the bill is not withdrawn.

“If the bill is passed, it will be very harmful and dangerous for us. So we decided to meet and passed a strong resolution to condemn and protest the bill,” Mizoram chief minister and MNF chief Zoramthanga said.

At least 25 top leaders representing NPP, MNF, NDPP, IPFT, AGP, NPF, UDP, HSPDP, PDF and KHANAN attended the two-hour-long meeting. NPP is an ally of BJP in Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, NDPP leads a coalition government with BJP as its partner in Nagaland while UDP, HSPDP and PDF are also part of Meghalaya government. IPFT is an important ally of BJP in Tripura government. BJP had allied with the regional parties and either formed government or became part of the governments.

Manipur deputy chief minister Joy Kumar Singh (UDP), former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former Nagaland chief minister T R Zeliang, AGP president Atul Bora, president of NDPP Chingwang Kanyak, Meghalaya Speaker and UDP leader Dongkupar Roy, and chairman of JD (U), Northeast, NSN Lotha are among the prominent leaders who attended the meet.

The development has come as a surprise to BJP, which is eyeing 21 of the 24 Lok Sabha seats in seven states of the Northeast.

Toddler forced to remove black clothes 

Assam police personnel forced a toddler boy to remove his black jacket before entering an event attended by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, fearing that his mother could wave it to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The incident took place at Biswanath district in North Assam where Sonowal attended a function to open a silk spinning mill. 

Protesters have waved black clothes at BJP leaders and ministers since the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 7. 

Police have prohibited entry of people with black clothes to avoid similar protests in government events, including inside the capital complex here at Dispur.
BJP youth leaders, however, have waved white flags to counter black flag protests.

Also read: BJP's allies join hands against Citizenship Bill