The Centre’s failure in tabling the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday triggered euphoria across the northeastern States.
It also made leaders in the States ruled by the BJP singly or in alliance with regional parties heave a sigh of relief because of widespread protests, while Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma emerged as the “tallest leader” for his stand against the legislation. Mr. Sangma’s National People’s Party is an ally of the BJP and heads the coalition government in Meghalaya. His party is a minor partner of the BJP in Manipur and Nagaland.
As soon as the news of the Bill not being passed in the Rajya Sabha came in, people across Assam and neighbouring States took to the streets bursting firecrackers, singing, dancing and organising victory rallies.
“The Northeast came together as one against the Bill. Their spontaneous protests prevented the Centre from tabling the Bill, thus saving democracy and the secular fabric on the country,” All Assam Students’ Union chief advisor Samujjal K. Bhattacharya said.
“Apart from the people, the bold decision of the Chief Ministers of the Northeast – barring Assam and Tripura – to go against their own party or ally made the BJP back off. The Chief Minister of Meghalaya deserves our gratitude for this day,” RTI activist and peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi said.
AGP mulls renewing ties
The Asom Gana Parishad, which had severed its ties with the BJP and pulled out its support to the Sarbananda Sonowal government after the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last month, said the people of the Northeast showed how powerful they can be when united. “The BJP will think twice before trying to impose the Bill later,” AGP president Atul Bora said. AGP leader Manoj Saikia said the party would discuss renewing ties with the BJP since the Bill has been “virtually shelved”.
The Assam unit of the Congress celebrated the “victory of the people” by distributing sweets. Party veteran and former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said people of the Northeast thwarted the BJP despite Chief Minister Sonowal and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma “trying their best to destroy the State” by endorsing the Bill.
Mr. Sarma said not passing the Bill in the future will be a defeat for Assam. “We will try to push the Bill in the Rajya Sabha as and when it has the numbers there. “We brought the Bill to prevent 17 of Assam’s 33 districts from becoming a Bangladeshi Muslim majority State by 2021. The Bill is our commitment and it will remain so during the Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for not tabling the Bill and opting for a “consensus-driven approach”. He tweeted: “I sincerely appreciate and congratulate the people of Manipur and NE in general for winning on CAB. The efforts of students, meira paibis (women’s groups), NGOs and different political parties of the State were remarkable. Because of your genuine demands, Central government has reviewed CAB.”