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Citizenship Bill in Rajya Sabha: BJP's allies, CMs protest amid violence in north-east

The Narendra Modi-led government is facing a backlash as the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill gets tabled in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur chief ministers have urged Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to not pass the Bill. Lok Sabha had passed the Bill in January.

The new amendment aims to grant citizenship to people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India before December 31, 2014. However, people from the north-eastern states are up in arms against the Bill terming it as a violation of the Assam Accord which provides for deportation of immigrants who came to the country after 1971 when Bangladesh was created.

Violence, arrests and shutdowns in Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya have stirred trouble for the BJP and its allies in the north-east where it is holding power in all the seven states. Six women were reportedly injured during clashes with security forces in Manipur's capital Imphal. 

On February 11, popular Assam-based musician and filmmaker Bhupen Hazarika's had turned down Bharat Ratana that was awarded posthumously to his father as a mark of protest against the proposed amendment.

Bhupen Hazarika' son Tej Hazarika had said that no award and honour is greater than the will and interests of the people. He had earlier said that Bharat Ratna conferred on his late father is a victory of humanity and diversity.

"My father would never have endorsed passage of a law which goes against the cultural ethos and will of the majority of the Assamese population and is being passed in an un-democratic and un-Indian manner," Tej said.

He added that awards and honours will not help in the prosperity of India, but just and popular laws will. Tej said that the Centre's decision is far more important to him than the awards being conferred on his late father.

Amid simmering protests, will the Citizenship Bill affect BJP's fortunes in Lok Sabha polls?

As BJP consolidated its position in the north-east in 2018, by governing seven states of Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim with the allies, the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is likely to weaken its alliance with other parties.

Ten out of the 13 allies of BJP who are a part of the North-East Democratic Alliance have already threatened to leave the PM Modi-led group if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed by the Parliament.

The Congress, meanwhile, has targetted the BJP for strengthening its vote bank ahead of the general elections by granting citizenship to immigrants on the basis of religion, which also leaves nearly 4 million Muslim immigrants stateless and likely deportation.

The BJP, on the other hand, is trying to pacify its key allies and the people in north-east by assuring them that the new bill would in no way damage their unique cultural identity and violate the Assam accord.

"There is a misinformation campaign being spread by those who sit in AC rooms in Delhi or fight us in the Parliament. BJP is committed to protecting the culture and resources of Assam and the northeast. Even the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord has not been implemented for three decades, which we are committed to following in letter and spirit," PM Modi had told the audiences in a public rally in Assam last week.

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