Assam agitation martyrs’ families return awards, BJP worker thrashed as Citizenship Bill protests continue
Scores of families of people killed in the Assam agitation of the 1980s returned their awards to the state government in Guwahati on Wednesday to protest against the proposed amendment to citizenship law.
The amendment seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It has triggered protests in Assam and the rest of the northeast.
Civil society groups in Assam say the proposed amendment violates the 1985 Assam accord that sought to identify and deport illegal migrants from Bangladesh irrespective of their religion. The accord followed the six-year-long Assam agitation.
Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had felicitated the families of the 855 people killed during the agitation after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2016. The state government had given them an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each along with mementos.
The families marched to the office of Guwahati’s Deputy Commissioner to return the awards.
Rajen Deka, who heads an association representing the families, said they were returning the mementos as a mark of protest against the amendment. “In our own land, this [proposed] amendment will rob us of dignity and respect,” he said.
Dipti Bora, who is from Morigaon district and lost her brother, Padma Bora, during the agitation, said the proposed amendment will give protection to foreigners. “What is the value of the sacrifice of the martyrs?”
Separately, a BJP functionary in Assam’s Tinsukia was assaulted on Wednesday as the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill continued in the state.
Lakheshwar Moran, the BJP’s Tinsukia district president, was injured when protesters waylaid him outside the venue of a meeting over the proposed amendment.
“He [Moran] lost his tooth and sustained other injuries as he fell while he was being chased,” said Tinsukia police superintendent Shiladitya Chetia. “The matter is being investigated and the situation is tense.”