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Citizenship Amendment bill: A poll gimmick

Avik Chakraborty

Will the Citizenship(Amendment) Bill, 2016 benefit the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2019? Only time will tell. Before the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP tabled the bill in the parliament to woo the Hindu voters in Assam. Though it is a National Bill, a lot of protests have been witnessed in Assam and other neighboring Northeastern states after the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019.
Earlier, Congress used Bangladeshi Muslims as vote bank during elections and now BJP is seen following the footsteps of the earlier government by granting Citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, who came to Assam after facing persecution.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced by the Centre in the Lok Sabha in July 2016 to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, in order to make Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who left Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to escape religious persecution eligible for Indian citizenship.
Recently, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tabled the much-criticized Citizenship(Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the parliament. The Congress MP’s staged a walkout from the parliament against the Bill. The other parties also opposed the bill in the parliament. The Center failed to table the bill in the Rajya Sabha on January 9 because of a protest by the Congress and other opposition parties. The bill is likely to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha in the budget session.
The BJP-led government in the state has been facing a huge backlash for its stand against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecute non-Muslim immigrants of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who migrated to the country till December 31, 2014.
The All Assam Students’ Union(AASU) vehemently opposed the bill and called for a 11-hour Assam bandh after the passing of the controversial bill in the Lok Sabha.
Incidents of violence have been reported from different areas of Assam. BJP offices were vandalized by the protesters in rage against the passing of the bill in the Lok Sabha.
“We will continue our protest against the bill till it is scrapped as it will spell doom for the people of Assam. The Centre is trying to convert Assam into a dumping ground of illegal Bangladeshis and we won’t allow it. If the bill is passed, the Assamese people will lose their political space and identity. We do not support such draconian bill because the bill is anti-Assamese and it will take away the rights from the indigenous people of Assam,” AASU, general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said.

The think tank of BJP strongly believes that the Citizenship bill will help them win good numbers of seats for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Assam. Assam has 14 Lok Sabha seats after winning the recently held panchayat poll, BJP has become very much sure of their win in Assam.
The BJP president Ranjit Dass recently said that they will win 11 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam.
The Asom Gana Parishad(AGP) has snapped their ties from the ruling BJP in Assam. The AGP leaders submitted their resignation to Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. AGP has termed the bill ‘Anti-Assam’ because it will have a disastrous effect on Assamese people residing in Assam.
On the other hand, Congress said Prime minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP were “misleading” the nation on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the ongoing update of the National Register of Citizens(NRC) with the object of polarizing voters along religious lines ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha.

Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma advocated the Citizenship bill and said that the Citizenship(Amendment) Bill is the only way to ‘check the demographic change’ triggered by Muslims from Bangladesh to the northeast. Sarma said that with this legislation Prime minister Narendra Modi has ensured that 17 assembly seats in Assam will never go to Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF) chief and Jinna.
Despite widespread protest against the bill, the saffron party is trying hard to sell the Centre’s decision by promising the identity-conscious native a constitutional safeguard to protect “Jaati(ethnicity), maati(land) and bheti(homeland)” of Assam’s indigenous people.

Rupak Bhattacharjee, a political commentator believes that the Citizenship bill is a major poll plank of BJP before the 2019 Lok Sabha election. “Under Narendra Modi, BJP has become aggressive and using all their ploys to win the elections. They have been dividing the communities in the name of religion and using the Citizenship bill as a major poll plank before the elections”.
He added, “Out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam, BJP has won 7 seats in the last general election in 2014. This time they have taken out the Citizenship bill issue to woo Hindu Bangladeshi votes in the election,”.
In Barak valley, most Bengali speaking people welcome religion based Citizenship rules, which they hope, will shield them from the provision of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

All Northeastern states (Bengali-majority Tripura particularly) are against it. Mizoram fears that Buddhist Chakmas from Bangladeshi’s Chittagong Hill tracts may take advantage of the Act. Meghalaya and Nagaland are apprehensive of migrants of Bengali stock and dilution of the rules that protect the natives. Many groups in Arunachal Pradesh fear that it may benefit the Chakmas and the Tibetans.
It is interesting to see as to how after stiff opposition from the people, BJP would able to make their mark in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when it comes to the seats from Assam.

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