As the BJP-led Union government battled with the opposition over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill-2016 in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, some of the theatrics leaked onto the parliament lawns -- becoming a little more literal in the process. The Trinamool Congress presented a protest skit that had a number of lawmakers, dressed in black, pretending to cower in fear as a colleague wearing a Narendra Modi mask hit them repeatedly with a stick.
The bill, which aims to make illegal migrants of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities eligible for Indian citizenship, has been opposed by opposition parties as well as the BJP's allies in the northeast. The Congress walked out of the house soon after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tabled the legislation today, alleging that a bill which discriminates on the basis of religion goes against the preamble of the Constitution. The party has termed the bill as a "political ploy to divide and rule" northeast India. The bill easily cleared Lok Sabha.
The BJP is facing resistance in the northeast too, with protest marches being taken out across its expanse. While the Asom Gana Parishad broke ties with the BJP in Assam on Monday, unidentified people hurled molotov cocktails at the party's Meghalaya headquarters a day ago.
Terming the proposed amendment to the bill as an "attack on the country's secular fabric", the Trinamool Congress said it would oppose the move with all its might in parliament. "How can there be discrimination on the basis of religion? You will be eligible if you are Hindu but kept out if you are Muslim? Our Constitution does not allow this," party member Saugato Roy told PTI.
Tuesday's novel protest was another step forward in the party's plan to oppose the amendment. "We enacted this skit to illustrate how the centre is forcing this bill on the people against their will," said one of the protesting parliamentarians.
The BJP, however, remains firm in its resolve to amend the law. "I strongly believe that if this bill is not passed, Assamese Hindus will become a minority in the next five years. That will be advantageous for elements who want Assam to be another Kashmir," Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Monday.
PM Modi's speech in support of the proposed amendment at Assam's Silchar recently had provoked a statewide backlash against the BJP, despite his claim that it was "not for anyone's benefit". "The Citizenship Bill is an atonement for the wrong that was done during India's partition. I hope this bill is passed soon in parliament. India will safeguard every victim of the partition," he had said.
(With inputs from Agencies)