Regional party quits India's ruling coalition over citizenship row

Leroy Wright
January 9, 2019

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Monday ended its alliance in Assam with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.

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.

No one was injured in the attack but the windows of the office chamber of state BJP President Shibun Lyngdoh were damaged.

They also burned effigies of the prime minister.

JD (U) national general secretary Sanjay Verma said his party will oppose the bill because it will do no good to the identity and culture of Assam and the northeast.

Slamming the saffron party over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Mahanta also asked the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre to spell out the number of Hindus, Sikhs, Christian and Buddhists who were persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and have come to India.

The AGP and the BJP had forged an alliance in the state just before the 2016 Assembly elections with the sole objective of keeping the Congress out of power by preventing division of anti-Congress votes.

Previous year the Assam government published a draft citizens' register that left off 4mn people unable to prove they were living there before 1971. If the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed and Hindu immigrants are granted citizenship, it would mean Muslims are being specifically targeted through NRC.

The chief minister had assured us that the Centre will not go against the interest of the Assamese people but it is "unfortunate that he did not do enough to stall the bill", the AGP president said.

"We did not organise any movement on Tuesday as part of the opposition to the Citizenship Bill", said Debbarma, also the IPFT's chief spokesman.

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The decision to snap ties with the BJP over the bill that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will, however, not affect the stability of the Sarbananda Sonowal-headed government.

The letter, whose copy was given by Bora to reporters at a press conference on December 10, stated that the AGP is fully committed to the implementation of the Assam Accord of 1985.

Some political observers believe that the committee was a ploy to placate Assamese groups, who have not taken well to the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Besides the political parties, the influential North East Students Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of students organisations of the northeastern states, called for 11-hour shutdown in the entire Northeast on Tuesday.

Nearly all government establishments and educational institutions remained closed across the state.

It referred to the understanding arrived at prior to the Assam Assembly election, 2016, and said the AGP had chose to go for the alliance during a discussion with the BJP in New Delhi on "the basis of clear understanding of the Assam Accord, other major issues of Assam, including the seat adjustments".

NESO supporters blocked roads with boulders and burnt tyres in several parts of the state.

"There is no confusion about our stand".

"The Left Parties, the Congress and many other parties would strongly oppose the bill".

A meeting of the AGP was held in Guwahati on Friday on the issue and it was decided that if the Bill is passed in Lok Sabha, "we will withdraw support to the government in the state", Mahanta said earlier in the day. We were doing that while staying with the government.

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