Citizenship Bill: Pressure mounts on AGP to quit Sonowal government, again 

The AGP, which was born out of the six-year-long anti-immigrants’ agitation (Assam Agitation) of early 1980s, is facing criticism from both within and outside.
Former Assam Chief minister and founder of Asom Gana Parishad Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. (Photo| PTI)
Former Assam Chief minister and founder of Asom Gana Parishad Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. (Photo| PTI)

GUWAHATI: As the protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 get intensified, pressure mounts on regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) to walk out of Assam’s three-party coalition government.

The AGP, which was born out of the six-year-long anti-immigrants’ agitation (Assam Agitation) of early 1980s, is facing criticism from both within and outside for hanging on to power despite its firm stand on the issue of illegal migration.

That the AGP is in no mood to walk out of the Sarbananda Sonowal government was evident on Saturday when its leaders met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi and held a threadbare discussion on the issue of Citizenship Bill with him.

Emerging from the meeting, AGP president Atul Bora, who is also Assam’s Agriculture Minister, told journalists: “The Union Home Minister has told us that the Bill will in no way hurt the interests of the indigenous people of Assam and the Northeast”.

Bora also thanked Shah for discussing the issue with the leaders of various political parties and organisations from the Northeast.

However, two-time former Chief Minister and AGP’s founder president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has been critical of the party leadership on the issue of the Bill. He alleged the AGP leadership had been soft for the lust of power.

“We all know the Citizenship Bill is against the interests of Assam’s indigenous people but the party is taking action against those who are speaking up against it,” Mahanta said recently.

The students of Cotton University in Guwahati staged a protest outside the AGP’s head office on Saturday against the manner in which the party was dealing with the issue.

In January, the AGP had pulled out its support to the Sonowal government and its ministers quit when the Centre took a decision to table the Bill in the Lok Sabha. However, barely a month later, they returned as ministers as the AGP re-joined the government.

Meanwhile, during a discussion with Shah on Saturday, the influential North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) made it clear that it would keep opposing the Bill as it goes against the interests of region’s indigenous populace. The students’ body demanded the Centre implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the entire Northeast.

The Citizenship Bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to “persecuted” non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who migrated to India till December 31, 2014.

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