Guwahati: A wave of jubilation swept through Assam and other North-East states, in ferment for the last few weeks, after the hugely divisive Citizenship (Amendment) Bill could not be tabled in the Rajya Sabha and is destined to die a natural death with the expiry of the term of the current Lok Sabha, June 3.
Leaders of the AGP, AASU, KMSS and AJYCP – all antagonists of the 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 north-east over ‘communal’ forces.
“Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma hai, hai,” the people chanted, as fireworks reverberated in cities, towns and villages of Assam.
The BJP, which stood isolated on the issue, however, put up a brave and belligerent face, with Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma calling the development a ‘defeat’ for Assam. He also declared his party will contest the Lok Sabha elections with ‘commitment’ to the bill.
Sarma, who heads the North-East Democratic Alliance, the NDA’s version in the region, also declared the alliance will bring the bill once again after winning the Lok Sabha elections with a majority.
The contentious Citizenship (amendment) Bill provided for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of 11 years.
As the news of the inevitable expiry of the bill reached Manipur, curfew was lifted, Wednesday afternoon in state capital Imphal where protestors had been involved in clashes with police since Tuesday night.
Manipur 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.
It must be stated here that the two BJP Chief Ministers of the north-east – Arunachal Pradesh’s Pema Khandu and Manipur’s Singh – had also opposed the bill.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma of the National People’s Party, a BJP ally who had threatened to pull out of the NDA if the bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, called it a ‘great moment’ for the people of the north-east.
Sangma had marshalled parties of the region to launch a concerted protest against the legislation.
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, a former Assam Chief Minister had 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.