Citizenship Bill set to die natural death, celebration across Northeast

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Not passing CAB in Rajya Sabha a defeat for Assam, says Himanta

HT Bureau

NEW DELHI / GUWAHATI / JORHAT, Feb 13: With the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 set to lapse on June 3 as it was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha which adjourned sine die on Wednesday, celebrations broke out across Assam and other Northeastern states which had vehemently protesting against it.

Celebrations erupted across Assam with opponents of the bill bursting crackers, distributing sweets and breaking into frenzied dancing on the streets.

The controversial Bill is set to lapse on June 3 when the term of the present Lok Sabha ends as it could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha which adjourned sine die on Wednesday ending the Budget session, which was the last Parliament session of the present government. It had been passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8.

Bills introduced in the Rajya Sabha and pending there do not lapse with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. However, a legislation was introduced in the Lok Sabha but awaiting clearance of the Rajya Sabha expires at the end of the term of the Lower House.

The BJP, which stood isolated on the issue, with even its alliance partners in the Northeast raising a banner of revolt, however, put up a brave and belligerent face, with Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma calling the development a ‘defeat’ for Assam, and declaring his party will contest the Lok Sabha elections with ‘commitment’ to the Bill.

Sarma claimed that without the Bill, 17 assembly seats in the state will go to Bangladeshi Muslims.

The NDA does not have majority in the Rajya Sabha and therefore, could not introduce the bill in it, he said.

But the NDA will bring the legislation again once the BJP-led alliance gets majority, he said after attending the oath taking ceremony of the new Rabha-Hasong Autonomous Council here.

“The BJP is committed and will be forever committed to the Bill. I fully support the Bill. BJP will fight (the elections) with this commitment. There is nothing to hide about it,” Sarma, the convener of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the regional platform of the saffron party, said.

“I think not passing the Bill in Rajya Sabha is a defeat for Assam… Without the bill, 17 (Assembly) constituencies will go to Bangladeshi Muslims,” he told reporters when asked about his comment. Who will save the (Assamese) community? If we do not have the Bill, entire Assam will be ruled by Bangladeshi Muslims in 2021. Then Assam’s civilisation, culture and language will be finished forever,” Sarma added.

On the other hand, the leader of Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia has lauded the Modi government’s failure to push through the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and said that the Congress has yet again foiled an attempt by communal forces to convert secular India into fundamentalist India.

Saikia said the Congress had honoured the sentiments of the people of Assam and Northeast as a whole and evolved such effective floor coordination with non-BJP parties that the Modi government was unable to muster the courage to table the Bill in the Rajya Sabha on the last day of the Budget Session of Parliament.

Saikia said after safeguarding the interests of Assam at the time of Partition of India, the Congress Wednesday played a pivotal role in protecting the people of Assam and the Northeast from a communal force. Saikia said the Congress president Rahul Gandhi deserved praise for displaying political sagacity and evolving an unshakeable consensus with non-BJP parties to thwart the Modi government’s anti-Constitution and anti-Northeast designs.

Saikia also expressed gratitude to the AASU, NESO, AJYCP, KMSS, Dr Hiren Gohain and others along with the people of Assam and the Northeast for their untiring campaign against the CAB.

Leaders of the AGP, AASU, KMSS, AJYCP – all antagonists of the Citizenship Bill, claimed the Centre’s failure to pass the legislation in the Rajya Sabha was a victory of democracy and of the people of Assam and the Northeast over ‘communal’ forces.

“Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma hai hai,” they chanted, as fireworks reverberated in cities, towns and villages of Assam.

As the news of the inevitable expiry of the bill reached Manipur, curfew was lifted in state capital Imphal. The restive state’s capital city was under curfew since Tuesday, but furious protesters were on the streets overnight, clashing with police.

Curfew was lifted this afternoon following improvement in the law and order situation, District Magistrate of Imphal West Naorem Praveen Singh said.

Mobile internet services will, however, continue to remain suspended for some more time.

Chief Minister N Biren Singh thanked prime minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for not tabling the Bill in the Rajya Sabha and opting for consensus.

“On behalf of the people of Northeasts & in particular Manipur, I would like to profusely thank Honble PM @narendramodi ji, BJP Pres @amitshah ji and HM @rajnathsingh ji for not tabling the CAB and opting for consensus driven approach. We deeply appreciate ur affection for NE!”, Singh tweeted.

Student outfits, socio-cultural organisations and political parties were up in arms against the Centre, claiming granting citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India up to December 31, 2014, would violate the Assam Accord. Under the accord signed in 1985, all illegal immigrants who came after 1971, irrespective of their religion, were to be deported.

Two BJP chief ministers of the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh’s Pema Khandu and Manipur’s Biren Singh — had also opposed the bill, which the prime minister called an “atonement for the wrong that was done during Partition”.

Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, a former Assam chief minister who spearheaded the students’ agitation that resulted in the signing of the Assam accord, warned the Centre against taking the ordinance route to “impose” the new citizenship law.

“Government of India must take note of it and not impose the Bill by bringing an ordinance. Like the government has weapons, the public also has other alternatives,” the AGP leader said. His party had walked out of the NDA over the controversial legislation.

Another former chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi of the Congress, branded the development a victory of democracy, of the people of the northeastern regions and Assam.

“The BJP wanted to destroy the existence, language, culture and heritage of the indigenous people of Assam and the northeast region,” he said, insisting the bill violated the Indian Constitution.

“They were hoping to get votes in the name of Hindutva. That has been defeated,” he said.

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