Northeast shuts down over Citizenship Bill

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India's lower house passed on Tuesday legislation that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims, sparking protests in the country's northeast.

Hek, who is also the BJP legislature party leader, said the party has also requested the police to deploy security personnel in all its offices across the state to prevent such incident to take place.

The proposal has been hotly contested in Assam, a hilly state that has witnessed violence between settlers and indigenous groups, who say they have lost land and jobs to the newer entrants.

The ally trouble for the BJP continued with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Monday deciding to break ties with the saffron party over the Citizenship Bill.

Protests have erupted in recent months and on Monday in Assam, where a movement against illegal immigrants, of all religions, from Bangladesh has simmered for decades, with some residents blaming them for eating into their resources and job opportunities.

Past 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.

In the 126-member Assam Assembly, the AGP has just 14 MLAs, while the ruling coalition, which now comprises the BJP with 60 MLAs and Bodoland People's Front (BPF) with 12 MLAs, has a comfortable majority.

In the Lok Sabha, the Home Minister said leaders like former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Manmohan Singh have backed such a provision in the past.

The letter to Shah, which was also signed by Mahanta, said, "It is reliably learnt that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in spite of our protest, including the protests resorted to by various organisations of indigenous people of Assam before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, is to be placed before Parliament". Mizoram and Meghalaya governments have opposed the Bill by adopting resolution against it in their respective cabinet meetings.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the bill and it is expected to be tabled in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, an official privy to the development said. The government had argued that the bill is meant to those "escaping persecution" and not for economic migrants.

The bill - aggressively pushed by the BJP-led government - has become a political and social flashpoint, particularly in the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) being updated in Assam.

BJP Spokesperson Rupam Goswami said, "We have not got any information officially".

However, state Congress president Ripun Bora accused the AGP of carrying on with the alliance for the "sake of power" and noted that the damage to the state had already been done. As the government did not heed to the demand, the Congress staged a walkout. "There is a divisive nature to this bill and the draft committee has shot down all suggested amendments", Professor Sougata Roy, a member of parliament from Trinamool Congress, said during the protest. While the AGP broke off the alliance, allies Shiv Sena and JD (U) opposed the legislation.

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