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Anti-citizen bill leaders at BJP door

Leaders like Moni Madhab Mahanta and Ashini Chetia joined the BJP or its alliance partners or decided to back the BJP

By A Staff Reporter in Guwahati

  • Published 30.03.19, 12:50 AM
  • Updated 30.03.19, 12:50 AM
Moni Madhab Mahanta after joining the AGP, a BJP ally
Moni Madhab Mahanta after joining the AGP, a BJP ally File picture

A number of leaders of organisations that had opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, have either joined the BJP or its alliance partners or decided to back the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.

Prominent among them are Moni Madhab Mahanta and Ashini Chetia.

Mahanta, who was the vice-president of All Assam Students’ Union, left AASU to join the AGP, an alliance partner of the BJP. Mahanta, brother of state water resources minister Keshab Mahanta, will fight the Lok Sabha election from Kaliabor constituency.

BJP national president Amit Shah, who had reportedly vowed last month in a public meeting at Lakhimpur in Upper Assam to pass the bill in Parliament if the BJP returns to power, on Thursday urged voters to vote for Mahanta at an election rally in Kaliabor.

Asked if he would support the bill now that he had joined a BJP ally, Mahanta said his opposition to the bill would continue.

Chetia, who was adviser of the All Tai Ahom Students’ Union, a vocal critic of the BJP government for trying to pass the bill and who spearheaded the anti-citizenship bill protest in Upper Assam, joined the BJP a few days ago.

Asked if he would support the bill now that he had joined the BJP, Chetia said the issue was irrelevant at present as the bill had not been passed by Parliament. “If it comes again, I will have to think about it,” he added.

The Northeast was on the boil till January this year in protest against the bill that seeks to accord citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians who fled Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and entered India before December 31, 2014, after six years of residence in India instead of 11 years.

Ashini Chetia joins the BJP
Ashini Chetia joins the BJP File picture

The bill was passed by the BJP in the Lok Sabha but could not be tabled in the Rajya Sabha because of protest from Opposition parties.

Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK), an influential student organisation of the Mising community and one of the 30 organisations led by AASU in the movement against the bill, decided to give its “indirect support” to the BJP, saying that “agitation and politics are two different things.”

TMPK general secretary Padmalochan Doley told The Telegraph that among other things, the BJP has promised to give constitutional recognition to the Mising Autonomous Council and change the word “Miri” (as the community was earlier known) to Mising in the Constitution.

“We are still with AASU in their protest against the bill but agitation and politics are two different things. In panchayat elections, we had opposed the BJP for which its candidates could not win in Mising-dominated areas whereas the party fared well in other areas,” Doley said.

A few others, who did not join or support the BJP, have decided to go ahead on their own or support other political parties.

Junmoni Devi Khaund, president of Juzaru, one of the 70 organisations that spearheaded the movement against the bill in Assam, has decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections as an Independent from Gauhati constituency.

Khaund could not be contacted but a news item published by a web portal, which was shared by Khaund on her Facebook post, said the bill would not be her election plank. “As the BJP will not return to power, the question of introducing the bill (in Parliament) does not arise,” she was quoted as saying.

The All Assam Scheduled Caste Students’ Union, one of the 70 organisations, has decided to support Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma-led National People’s Party (NPP), which had opposed the bill.