Conrad Sangma

Amid intensifying protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) president Conrad Sangma on Tuesday announced that 10 political parties from the northeast, including key BJP allies, and the JD(U) have unanimously decided to oppose Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) — which recently walked out of an alliance with the BJP in Assam over disagreements regarding the Bill—had convened the meeting of the parties.

Ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said his party would always protect the interests of Assam. Taking to Twitter, he also thanked the people of the state for supporting the BJP in the elections to three tribal autonomous councils.

The BJP has faced political heat in the region over the legislation, with several allies, and even its own leaders, expressing discontent over the Bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this month. The bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 by selectively relaxing the eligibility rules for immigrants in getting Indian citizenship. Under the existing Act, an immigrant must have lived in India for 11 of the previous 14 years. The Bill relaxes this to six years for certain sections of immigrants.

The political opposition, powerful groups and large sections of society in the Northeast see the Bill as a “threat” to the indigenous communities of the region.

Meanwhile, the Nagaland Cabinet Monday rejected the Citizenship Bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this month. In a cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Chief Secretary Temjen said that the state government remains opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016.

The bill has triggered protests across the northeastern region and has been raising concerns from various tribal organisations and students bodies. Protesters have expressed fears that the prospect of citizenship will encourage migration from Bangladesh. They also stated cited several grounds for opposing this.

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