Spokesperson of Congress’s Mizoram unit Lallian Chhunga however said that Thanhawla just happened to keep his hand on a banner carried by a protester.
Former Mizoram Chief Minister and Congress leader Lal Thanhawla and his wife participated in a protest against The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, at Vanapa Hall in Aizawl on February 12.
Thanhawla allegedly held a banner with the message: “Hello Independent Republic of Mizoram” while protesting against the Bill.
The protests in the city were organised by the NGO Coordination Committee -- the umbrella organisation of major civil society and students' bodies.
Spokesperson of Congress’s Mizoram unit Lallian Chhunga said, "He was not carrying any banner and had only joined the protest. He just happened to keep his hand on a banner carried by a protester."
However, not completely dismissing the message it sent out, Chhunga added, "The message is our way of telling the government of India that if you forcibly pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, there is no reason we should continue to show our loyalty to sovereign India. It is a matter of life and death."
The images of Thanhawla holding the banner had sparked a row.
The controversial Bill has seen widespread protests and opposition in the Northeast from political parties, that include allies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which was pushing the Bill.
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal immigrants (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan) eligible for Indian citizenship.
However, the Bill now stands to lapse on June 3 as the Upper House was adjourned sine die on February 13. As it was passed by the Lok Sabha earlier, it was to lapse if not cleared by the Rajya Sabha on February 13 -- the last sitting of the 16th Lok Sabha.
The Mizoram Congress termed the Bill "draconian" and reiterated its opposition to it. "Mizoram PCC has reiterated its opposition to the draconian bill, the state PCC chief has ordered all shutters down at Mizoram Congress Bhavan and requested all Congress members to participate in the protest," tweeted the state Congress unit.The NGO Coordination Committee leaders had also warned that the stir would be intensified if the Rajya Sabha passes the Bill.