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Situation is challenging, says govt as anti Citizenship Bill protests rock Assam

A series of protests has rocked parts of Assam for weeks now and anger against the BJP government continues to rage over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2019 21:22 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,Citizenship bill,Himanta Biswa Sarma
Activists of All Assam Students Union (AASU) along with 30 indigenous organizations take out a torch light procession to protest against the Citizenship Amendment bill in Guwahati on January 31.(AFP Photo)

As Assam remains on the edge over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which has sparked major protests, top bureaucrats on Saturday conceded that the situation is challenging.

“The situation is peaceful but challenging. On a scale of one to ten it is slowly progressing,” said Alok Kumar, chief secretary of the state even as he appealed for “peaceful and dignified” protests.

Asked if the situation was worsening, he said, “That is for you to decide.”

Kumar, his colleague Kumar Sanjay Krishna, the additional chief secretary and Assam Director General of Police Kuladhar Saikia and Hiren Nath, an inspector general of police, addressed a press conference in Guwahati on Saturday.

The chief secretary said that everyone has a right to protest democratically but there have been ‘deviations’ which include nude protests.

Asked if the state and the Centre were apprised in advance on the kind of situation which may emerge if the Bill is pushed, Kumar said, “In various meetings and otherwise we had expressed our opinions.” He did not reveal specific details.

Assam Police chief Kuladhar Saikia said that police can only be sure of the rebel group ULFA’s involvement after investigations and analysis. He was asked about senior cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s comment that the banned ULFA(I) was instigating protests.

Violence has rocked parts of Assam for weeks now and on Wednesday, Lakheswar Moran, the president of BJP’s Tinsukia district unit was attacked by protesters when he was on his way to a meeting on the Citizenship Bill called by Lok Jagran Manch, an organization associated with the RSS. Saikia said five persons have been arrested in connection with the Tinsukia assault.

In other parts of the state, BJP ministers including chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal have been greeted with black flags by protesters. In many places including in Guwahati, agitators have stripped naked.

The Citizenship Bill which proposes to relax conditions for citizenship to six religious groups including Hindus, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Christians who have come from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan for reasons of religious persecution was passed by Lok Sabha earlier in January.

The Bill is facing stiff opposition in the Northeast including Assam where agitators say it violates the Assam Accord of 1985 which promised detection and deportation of foreigners irrespective of their religion. Protesters say it would also nullify the ongoing exercise of National Register of Citizens.

First Published: Feb 02, 2019 20:21 IST