Normal life affected as Northeast unites in protest over Citizenship Bill

Published on Jan 08, 2019 09:39 PM IST

The bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha would pave way for citizenship to migrants from six religious communities including Parsis, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus who have come to India for fear of religious persecution from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Khumulwng: Activists of various student union outfits protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Khumulwng, West Tripura, Tuesday, Jan 8, 2019. (PTI Photo)(PTI)
Khumulwng: Activists of various student union outfits protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Khumulwng, West Tripura, Tuesday, Jan 8, 2019. (PTI Photo)(PTI)
Hindustan Times, Guwahati/Agartala | BySadiq Naqvi & Priyanka Deb Barman

Sporadic cases of violence were reported from Assam and Tripura and life came to a halt in most northeastern states as student bodies enforced a 11-hour shutdown in protest over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Tuesday.

In Tripura, where the effect of the shutdown were limited to the tribal areas, the state government imposed prohibitory orders and a 48-hour ban on SMS and mobile data services after as many as seven persons were injured in a clash in Madhabbari in Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.

“Agitators ransacked shops and set them on fire. Few are injured but we have not confirmed if anyone of them have a bullet injury,” said Prankrishna Das, Sub Divisional Police Officer, Jirania, amidst allegations of bullets being fired on protestors.

The bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha would pave way for citizenship to migrants from six religious communities including Parsis, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus who have come to India for fear of religious persecution from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The All Assam Students Union, the influential student body which was at the forefront of the Assam agitation against foreigners, is leading the protest against the proposed amendment which, according to them, violates the Assam Accord which promised to detect and deport foreigners irrespective of their religious background.

As a mark of protest, the families of the 855 martyrs of the Assam agitation decided to return the mementoes they have received in 2016 from the state government.

“Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said he will protect the interests of the Assamese. With this Bill, the sacrifices are going to go waste,” said Chandan Talukdar, general secretary of the Sadou Asom Jatiya Swahid Pariyal Somonnorokhyi Parishad. His brother Khargeshwar Talukdar was first martyr.

Meanwhile, in Assam’s Dibrugarh and Golaghat districts, BJP offices came under attack from angry protestors even as in other places stray cases of vandalism of public property were reported. “14 people have been arrested in Dibrugarh while four have been arrested in Golaghat. There have been two arrests in Guwahati,” said Mukesh Agarwal, Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, confirming the attack on BJP offices.

DGP Kuladhar Saikia said adequate security had been deployed in the state in the wake of the bandh call.

As many as 1690 persons were detained in Assam by the police as most towns and cities barring the ones in Bengali-speaking Barak valley wore a deserted look.

The BJP or its NDA allies are in power in all seven states of the northeast.

In Itanagar, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union, a constituent of the North East Students Organisation, which had given the call for the bandh, said “it is unfortunate and sad to see despite objection from people of Northeast, the Bill has been passed by the BJP government.”

“It was a peaceful bandh and supported by everyone. Mizo people will never accept the Bill which will affect Mizoram. We have Chakma illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who could become citizens,” said Lanlnunmawia Pautu, General Secretary, Mizo Zirlai Pawl, Mizoram’s influential student body.

“It affected normal life as most offices and schools were shut and few vehicles plied on the road,” said Limasunep Jamir, Commissioner of Police, Dimapur, Nagaland. Other states including Meghalaya and Manipur, too, saw life coming to a standstill.

Meanwhile, the Assam’s unit of the BJP, stung by its ally Asom Gana Parishad’s decision to withdraw from government, is trying to firefight. “The recent decision by the union cabinet to appoint a committee to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and the decision to give ST status to six communities (Moran, Motok, Chutiya, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tea Tribes and Tai Ahom) goes beyond even the promises of the accord,” Ranjit Dass, president, Assam BJP, told the media in Guwahati.

“It was a pre-poll alliance between the AG, the BJP and the BPF (Bodo Peoples Front). Now that the AGP has walked out, the BJP should take a moral stand and seek a fresh mandate,” said Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former chief minister and AGP leader, adding that the Union cabinet’s decision will not have any impact on the agitation against the citizenship bill.

Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi, meanwhile, said the doors of the Congress were open for an alliance with the AGP.

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