In a statement here earlier in the day, AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said the party would withdraw support to the government in the state if the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 is passed by Lok Sabha.
The decision to snap ties with the BJP over the bill that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will, however, not affect the stability of the Sarbananda Sonowal-headed government.
"We made a last-ditch attempt today to convince the Centre not to pass the bill".
They raised slogans that the chief minister had no reason to continue on his post as he could not protect the interests of the people of the state. "It is the dirtiest kind of politics of polarisation that BJP is playing by dividing the people of Assam, Bengal and elsewhere", he said. "It is the BJP which is responsible for AGP's quitting the alliance and they should step down immediately", said Mahanta. The North East Students' Organisation and State-based students' bodies in the other north-eastern States joined in while political parties such as Congress and All India United Democratic Front supported the call. "The Assamese and other indigenous peoples feel betrayed by the Narendra Modi government, which seems hell bent upon making Assam a dumping ground for foreigners thereby threatening our existence", AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattarcharya said.
The BJP has 61 members while 12 MLAs of the Bodoland People's Front and a sole Independent member are backing the party.
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"We now regret entering into an alliance with the BJP". The opponents feel the Bill will only aggravate a problem the state has always been grappling with: influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh since the 1971 war, who they fear will irrevocably dilute the strength of the indigenous Assamese population. According to TMC MP Derek O'Brien, the party is opposing the Bill on the ground that, "no Indian citizen should be left out".
The Congress said many states have opposed the bill and it should be sent to a select committee.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 aims to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to those Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.
Meanwhile, member organisations of the NESO in other states such as Mizo Zirlai Pawal (MZP), All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU), Khasi Students Union (KSU), Garo Students Union (GSU), Naga Students' Federation (NSF), All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) and Twipra Students Federation (TSF) are also supporting the bandh.
The proposal has been hotly contested in Assam, a hilly state that has witnessed violence between settlers and indigenous groups, who say they have lost land and jobs to the newer entrants.