North-eastern states up in arms against Citizenship Amendment Bill
The bandh evoked no impact in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi as well as the hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, officials said.Updated: Dec 10, 2019 08:19 IST
The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019, in the Lok Sabha led to a fresh round of protests against the controversial legislation in three northeastern states — Assam, Manipur and Tripura.
A 12-hour strike called by several indigenous organisations affected normal life in several parts of the state. While Guwahati remained largely unaffected, businesses and educational institutions remained shut, and the movement of vehicles was disrupted during the duration of the strike in many towns in upper and lower Assam.
The bandh evoked no impact in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi as well as the hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, officials said.
In many places, protesters burnt tyres and blocked national highways, but the police swung into action and cleared the roads. The police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse a group of agitators who clashed with police personnel in Dibrugarh and Guwahati while trying to stop movement of vehicles. Tourists in rhino-habitat Kaziranga National Park and Jorhat were stranded due to the bandh with no public transport available for their travel to Guwahati to board flights and trains.
States in northeast such as Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, which have inner line permit (ILP) regime, and Sixth Schedule areas in Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya have been kept outside the ambit of CAB. The entire northeast will witness a shutdown on Tuesday due to an 11-hour general strike called by North East Students Organisation (NESO), which comprises main student bodies of seven states in the region.
Normal was affected in Manipur on Monday due to agitations launched by the Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MANPAC). The stir, which began from 1am of December 9, is likely to continue till 3am on December 11.
Markets in the state capital, including the iconic Ima Market (mother’s market), wore a desolate look due to the “cease work” call while local transport services suspended their services.
“Our demand is to ensure that CAB is not implemented in Manipur and the rest of northeast,” says MANPAC convenor Yumnamcha Dilipkumar.”We’ll continue our movement.”
KhDevbarta ,spokesperson and general secretary of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee, said his party will go to the court if the bill is passed in Parliament.
Normal life was hit due to protests by indigenous political parties. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s partner in the state, Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), observed dawn-to-dusk strike at Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas, which are under the Sixth Schedule. They also demanded a separate state — Tipraland. “We ask the Centre not to implement the bill in our state. Protesting against the bill and in demand of our separate statehood, we called the strike for 12 hours ,” said IPFT assistant general secretary Mangal Debbarma.
A few indigenous-based political parties and social organisations under the banner of Joint Movement against Citizenship Amendment Bill (JMCAB), too, began an indefinite strike against CAB. “Our community has become outnumbered due to huge influx of people from Bangladesh. We don’t want any more worse effects due to this bill,” said JMCAB convenor Anthony Debbarma. Police said over 1,000 protesters were detained in Tripura during the strike on Monday.
States with inner line permit (ILP) regime, albeit being exempted from the purview of CAB, too are not happy with the legislation.
In Nagaland, K Elu Ndang, the general secretary of the Naga Hoho, the apex body of Naga tribes, said the Nagas are opposed to the amendment. “We the Nagas don’t welcome CAB,” he said.
“We are safe with the inner line permit if the government implements it in toto. But what is the need for CAB? It will disturb the demography of the tribal northeastern states,” he said.
In Mizoram, similar concerns were voiced by Lalmachhuana, the general Secretary of the Central Young Mizo Association, a powerful civil society group in the state. “Even though Mizoram, being an ILP state, is going to be exempted, but since other states, including Assam, will face a huge influx...Mizoram is likely to be affected. The best solution is to exempt all of the northeast region from the purview of the bill. The present exemptions are not sufficient,” he said.
The Congress’s Lal Thanhawla, the former chief minister of Mizoram, asked: “If ILP states are being exempted, why are they trying to punish Assam and Manipur?.” He said the government was pushing CAB because “Hindus make up the maximum numbers among minorities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Christians are nominal.” “The intention of CAB is clear. It is a signal for the entire Northeast. This will be followed by the Uniform Civil Code,” Lal Thanhawla said.
In Arunachal Pradesh, Hawa Bagang, the president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union, said the students’ body will participate in the shutdown on December 10 called by the North East Students Organisation.
“All of Northeast should be exempted from CAB. We are small states, the unity is important,” Bagang said.