New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Manipur has decided to urge the Centre to exempt the state from the jurisdiction of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the latest voice from the north-east against the proposed legislation.
Protesters hit the streets against the bill on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance cabinet, which has two BJP ministers, has passed a resolution opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, as the saffron party's leadership in the state asserted they were ‘with the indigenous people’ on the proposed legislation.
The cabinet passed the resolution during a meeting on Thursday.
The BJP, which has two MLAs in the MDA government, backed the Cabinet decision.
"We are with the people of the state. The state cabinet had unanimously passed a resolution to oppose the Bill and we are part of the government," Health Minister and BJP MLA A L Hek said.
Asked if he would resign from the BJP on the issue, he said, "No question".
"People have voted for me. They have entrusted me with responsibilities as their representative and I will continue to serve in that capacity."
However, defending the controversial bill, Assam's Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday said its implementation is a must for the state to ensure it does not face a Kashmir-like situation in the future.
He claimed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill can be an ‘opportunity’ for not just Assam but the entire Northeastern part of the country.
In Guwahati, BJP leader Pradip Dutta courted controversy by threatening Assamese speaking students in Bengali dominated Barak Valley that their admission in the Assam University at Silchar would be barred if they protest against the citizehsip bill.
Students union of another university in Guwahati filed an FIR against Dutta for his provocative statement.
Dutta, a local leader of the saffron party known for making controversial statements, issued the threat after a section of students of the Assam University raised their voice against the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
"I warn the Assamese (speaking) students of the university that you study only and don't indulge in politics. Think about the future. We then will be forced to bar admission of Assamese students in the university," Dutta was heard saying in local news channels.
Three persons, including a woman and a police officer, were injured in a clash between students, women vendors and the police at the Khwairamban Bazaar, the main market in Imphal, during a mass rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The police had to fire teargas shells to disperse the agitators, who joined the mass rally jointly organised by six students' organisations and the women vendors of the Khwairamban Bazaar.
A police officer, who did not want to be quoted, told PTI that some unidentified student agitators threw mineral water bottles at the police personnel, in which a sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) got injured on his face and he was hospitalised.
Two injured civilians were also admitted to the RIMS hospital in Imphal as they were injured after the police lobbed teargas shells.
At a meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Biren Singh, the state cabinet on Thursday decided to appeal to the Centre to allow it not to implement the proposed legislation, which was recently passed by the Lok Sabha, a press release issued by the chief minister's secretariat said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is heading a coalition government in Manipur with the National People's Party, the Naga People's Front and the Lok Janshakti Party.
In Meghalaya, the ruling NPP, the United Democratic Party, the BJP and the Hills State Peoples Democratic Party, as well as the opposition Congress, have voiced their opposition to the Bill, reflecting strong dissent prevailing in the state against the proposed legislation, cleared already by Lok Sabha.
The ruling UDP (having nine MLAs) has aired its opposition to the Bill and party president Donkupar Roy slammed the BJP at the Centre for ‘going against the voices of the people’, particularly in the frontier states of the northeast region.
Roy, who is also the speaker of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, told PTI, "There is a great danger in accepting the Bill in its current form, and if it's implemented in the frontier states of the North East, particularly in Meghalaya."
The speaker demanded the state and the northeast region be exempt from implementing the proposed legislation 'going by the sentiments of the indigenous people'.
Meanwhile, the Gauhati high court on Friday granted bail to senior journalist Manjit Mahanta and interim relief to Assamese litterateur Hiren Gohain and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi in a sedition case filed by Assam Police for their alleged remarks against the citizenship bill.
Justice H K Sarma granted interim bail to Gohain and Gogoi, RTI activist and chief of the KMSS, against a surety of Rs 5,000 each.
The Judge also directed police to file the case diary by January 22.
Mahanta was granted absolute bail as there is no specific allegation against him in the FIR.
Police had filed a suo motu case under Indian Penal Code sections, including 121 (waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against government), 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war) and 124(A) (sedition), at the Latasil police station in Guwahati.
The case was filed on the basis of comments made by the three during a meeting on January 7 to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Assam Congress president Ripun Bora Friday visited Gohain and expressed the party's solidarity with him.
Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters that the case against Gohain, Gogoi and Mahanta is a ‘blatant misuse of power’ by the BJP government in the state.
"The entire episode reflects Hitler and Mussolini type rule in the state and misuse of power by the BJP. The government cannot stop spontaneous protests by such high-handed measures. The protests will continue," he said.
One person at Jorhat also held a strip protest against the sedition charge slapped on Gohain on Friday.
Akhil Gogoi has announced that he will hold a 24-hour hunger strike on the coming Magh Bihu festival, of which community feast is an integral part, to protest against the bill.
"I will not celebrate Magh Bihu this time and will not eat anything on 'Uruka'. I will observe a 24-hour hunger strike with other representatives of 70 organisations from afternoon of January 14 to protest against the Bill," he told a press conference.
In Shillong, a bus carrying a team of rescuers from Odisha, headed to aid the operations to trace 15 miners trapped in a rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya, was attacked in East Jaintia Hills district allegedly by people protesting against the bill, police said on Friday.
District Superintendent of Police Sylvester Nongtynger said while there was no injuries to any personnel when the bus was targeted Thursday night on the National Highway in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills region, the vehicle was partially damaged.
Meanwhile, Sarma, who is also the convener of BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance, said, “People of Assam need to understand that this is not an Assam specific bill and the burden of these refugees will be shared by the entire country.”
“In fact, it will protect 17 important assembly seats of Assam from going to the All India United Democratic Front led by Badruddin Ajmal. We need to win the fight of civilisation as we cannot surrender Assam like we surrendered Kashmir," he said.
Accusing the Congress of misleading the people of Assam over the bill, he said nearly 20 lakh of the 40 lakh people left out during the process of National Register of Citizens update were Hindus.
He also said the Narendra Modi government's recent decision to grant constitutional status to clause 6 of the Assam Accord that ensures protection of indigenous Assamese from demographic invasion is a boon for the people of the state.
Sarma argued that tribal status given to six communities of Assam will make it a forte of indigenous Assamese people.
He also thanked Modi for ‘transforming’ the socio-economic status of the entire Northeast region and improving the much needed infrastructure.