Non-Muslim migrants have nowhere to go, should get citizenship

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There was widespread protests in the state against the bill and, for the first time, the media was also out on the street to register their protest against it, the Assam agriculture minister claimed.

Previous year the Assam government published a draft citizens' register that left off four million people unable to prove they were living there before 1971, when millions fled Bangladesh's war of independence. The Assam people voted for the BJP-AGP alliance, not the BJP alone.

The Assamese now feel this bill - giving citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh - will make a large section of illegal immigrants claimants to the state's resources. Reacting to Centre's decision clearing the bill on Monday, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma said the state government has passed a resolution in the cabinet (against the bill) and "that is the most aggressive stand any government has taken".

Demonstrators in the state are angry about the bill not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers from elsewhere, accusing the migrants of taking away jobs from indigenous groups.

He also said that Muslims have been left out of the minorities covered under the bill's provisions.

The protests got a new lease of life after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Bill would be passed, during an election rally in Silchar in Assam recently. "But the BJP has made a decision to go ahead with the Bill, leaving us with no option but to quit the alliance", Mr Bora said after meeting Mr Singh.

Bora, along with Kesab Mahanta, the AGP working president, and Phani Bhusan Choudhury of the party are ministers in the BJP-led government in Assam.

Withdrawal of the AGP, which has 14 MLAs in the 126-member assembly, will not have any immediate effect on the future of the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government that still has the backing of 74 MLAs.

Business establishments, commercial firms and other shops also did not open their shutters extending full support to the bandh.

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AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi said the Bill is a brainchild of people who continue to believe in the "two nation theory".

Northeast India on January 8 witnessed a complete shutdown after the North East Students' Organization (NESO), the umbrella body of all the major students' associations in the region, called for an 11-hour strike to protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian nationality to people from minority communities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don't possess any proper document, is expected to be tabled in Lok Sabha today.

The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of parliament, he told Al Jazeera, because the chamber is not controlled by the ruling party.

The Congress, TMC, CPI (M) and a few other parties were steadfastly opposing the bill claiming citizenship can not be given on basis of religion, as India is secular.

"The party (AGP) was born for the cause of the indigenous people and can not go against them".

Assam Police personnel remove black flags from Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) activists protesting with 69 other indigenous organisations of Assam during a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016.

The Assam Accord which was signed in 1985 after a six-year long agitation to drive out illegal foreigners from Assam sets March 25, 1971 as the cutoff date to identify and deport illegal foreigners irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

Besides Opposition parties, Bharatiya Janata Party's allies Shiv Sena and JD (U) would also oppose the Bill in Parliament.