New Delhi: As news of the lapse of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 flashed on TV screens, people of Assam breathed a huge sigh of relief. Scenes of spontaneous pouring in of people on to the streets and celebrating the lapse of the Bill only shows how people across the state were anxious over the tabling of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Various groups, be it the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), All Assam Students’ Union, Left parties, and even Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, everyone hailed the lapse of the Bill, terming it as a relief to the people of the Northeast and a victory of the Indian Constitution and democracy.
But, contrary to the response of the people, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, reportedly told the Assamese media, “It’s actually a defeat of Assam and its people. If the Bill is not passed, then 17 Assembly constituencies in lower and middle Assam will be captured by Bangladeshi Muslims. This will pave the way for destruction of Assamese civilisation. BJP is committed to the Bill and if we get into power again, then we will definitely pass the Bill.”
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was reported to have ducked when the media questioned him about the Bill.
Also Read: The BJP is Fighting Fire in Assam
Many parts of the Northeast, especially Assam, have been boiling ever since the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. While the regional parties, organisations and Left parties were protesting against the Bill, BJP was hell bent on getting it passed and making it a law. Differences over the issue also led to the snapping of ties between BJP and AGP.
Manipur, too, witnessed a crackdown in the past two days, after protests against the Bill intensified in Imphal. In Mizoram, people’s exasperation took an extreme form that could be observed in slogans and banners with ‘Separate Mizoram from India’ written on them. On Tuesday, former Mizoram Chief Minister, Lal Thanawla, was seen holding a placard with “Hello, Independent republic of Mizoram’’ written over it in a protest against the Bill in Aizawl. Earlier, some feeble voices, could also be heard in Assam in favour of separation from India.
The protests also saw sedition charges being slapped on prominent academic Hiren Gohain, activist Akhil Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahanta after they addressed a protest meeting in Guwahati on January 7, right after the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha.
The Bill lapsed in the Rajya Sabha (RS) as it was adjourned sine die amidst uproar by the Opposition parties on various issues. As the bill got lapsed in the RS, it will again have to get passed in the Lok Sabha to become a law, which can only happen after the formation of a new government.
Notably, even though the Congress during the last Lok Sabha session had opposed the Bill, they staged a walk-out instead of voting against it. The party was criticised heavily for this act. Before the starting of the RS session, several delegations from Assam comprising representatives of different organisations and civil society groups visited party president Rahul Gandhi to urge his party to take a strong stand in voting against the Bill. Leaders of other parties were also visited by the delegations with similar pleas.
Read More: Assam: BJP on Defensive Amid Massive Protest Against Citizenship Bill