Assam has been engulfed in widespread protests against the Citizenship Bill, with protesters taking to the streets, blocking roads and marching with their clothes off in several parts of the state.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on 8th January, seeks amendment the Citizenship Act, 1955, to provide citizenship to the persecuted minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains, and Christians) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
In Guwahati, members of 70 organisations, led by Akhil Gogoi’s Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, protested outside central government offices and also tried to break through the barricades to the state secretariat, leading to a scuffle with police.
Police resorted to lathi-charge and fired rubber bullets to disperse the agitators after they refused to budge. “Some of them were also taken into custody to prevent deterioration in law and order situation,” a senior officer said.
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) chief Akhil Gogoi announced that Modi and central ministers would not be allowed to enter the state, while the chief minister and BJP MLAs and MPs will not be allowed to hold any meeting or rally in the state.
The agitators were seen burning effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and gheraoing the state secretariat here.
In Golaghat’s Numaligarh area, members of Asom Aikya Manch took to the streets with their clothes off to protest against the Bill.
Agitators at Dibgoi tried to block a highway to stop Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal from attending Gorkha Mahotsav.
AASU activists in Nagaon waved black flags to BJP state unit president Ranjeet Das. Protests by students were also reported from Cotton State University and Dibrugarh University.
In a shameful act, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) took out a ‘Shamshan Yatra’ (funeral procession) of the prime minister, chief minister and seven BJP MPs in Assam.
In New Delhi, students from Assam studying there protested at Jantar Mantar and were joined by students from other states too.
All Assam Lawyers’ Association called the Bill “unconstitutional” and warned that they would go to the Supreme Court if the same was enacted.
The agitators have also threatened that they would not allow locally produced oil, petroleum products, coal, forest products, and limestone to be taken out of the state.
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which withdrew support to the BJP-led government in Assam Monday, also extended its support to the bandh.
BJP spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora resigned from the party, saying the Bill would harm the Assamese society and nullify the Assam Accord.
Former Assam chief minister and AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta demanded that the BJP government in the state resign and face a fresh election.
An 11-hour bandh, called by AASU and the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) and supported by over a hundred organisations against the Bill had completely disrupted the daily life in Assam yesterday.
It is notable here that the people of Assam have been demanding the ouster of Bangladeshis illegally settled in the state and a significant chunk of the Assamese population also believes Bengali Hindus too should be ousted from the state as they have encroached upon Assamese rights and benefits.
Amongst all this, State minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had earlier also expressed his support to the decision, maintained that the AGP had committed a “historic blunder” by not extending support to the Bill.