Guwahati: The shutdown called by 70 organisations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday threw normal life out of gear in Assam and other nearby northeastern states.
At least seven people were injured in western Tripura in the wake of an 11-hour bandh called to protest against the central government’s controversial Citizenship Bill, which crippled normal life in Northeastern states on Tuesday.
“Some tribal youths while demonstrating against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill turned violent at Madhab Bari in western Tripura. CRPF troopers after being unable to control the mob opened fire injuring six tribal youths, two of them seriously,” said a police officer.
Protesters clashed with the police, gheraoed Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s house at his native place in Dibrugarh, blocked national highways and damaged vehicles in Assam during the “bandh” called by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
Police had to resort to lathi-charge and fire rubber bullets to disperse the protestors, while the AASU activists clashed with the police and attempted to ransack a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office in Dibrugarh.
Opposition Congress, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) supported the bandh.
Normal life was hit in the Brahmaputra valley and was partially affected in the Barak valley due to a “north-east bandh” called separately by the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella organisation of students’ bodies in the region, of which the AASU is a constituent.
As many as 70 organisations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), began an indefinite “economic blockade” in the state today protesting against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The groups have affirmed that they would not allow locally produced oil, petroleum products, coal, forest products and limestone to be taken of the state.
The “bandh” called by the NESO on the same issue is being supported by over 100 organisations in Assam as well as in the other north-eastern states. The agitators gheraoed Sonowal’s house in his home town, Dibrugarh, to register their protest against the bill. They raised slogans that the chief minister had no reason to continue on his post as he could not protect the interests of the people of the state.
The protesters blocked roads and national highways by burning tyres and smashed the windshields of trucks, cars and autorickshaws at many places, including in Guwahati, the police said.
The picketers squatted on the railway tracks at various places in Guwahati and Dibrugarh district, but the movement of trains, including that of the Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express and the Kolkata-bound Kamrup Express, resumed after the Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel removed them from the tracks, railway sources said.
Actor Naseeruddin Shah was among a host of air passengers who were stranded for hours at the airports across Assam for hours due to non-availability of public transport following an 11-hour bandh called by various organisations on Tuesday.
The passengers complained that they faced a lot of difficulty during the bandh period as no taxis, auto rickshaws or buses were available for them to either reach the airports or reach the city after landing. Transports were available only after the bandh ended at 4 PM.
There was no movement of goods-laden trucks on all the national highways, following an economic blockade call issued by the KMSS, sources said.
Private and government vehicles plying on the national highways were being escorted by the police in convoys, they added.
Banners and posters at a BJP office were set ablaze in Golaghat, while a black flag was put up at another office of the saffron party in Lakhimpur district, the police said.
Shops, markets, banks and other financial institutions kept their shutters down, educational institutions, private offices remained closed and private vehicles including long-distance buses kept off the roads in the Brahmaputra valley, the police and official sources said.
The attendance was thin in government offices as the employees faced difficulty in reaching the workplace in the absence of adequate public transport, the sources said.
AASU and NESO chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya told reporters, “If Meghalaya and Mizoram can adopt a cabinet resolution opposing the bill, why can’t Assam do the same? “The people of Assam, for the last 70 years since Independence, have been forced by the Centre to agitate for their rights, language, existence, culture, heritage and infrastructure.” Dipankar Nath, the president of AASU, which had led the six-year-long Assam Movement against illegal immigrants, said, “Despite wide opposition to it, the BJP government at the Centre has undemocratically imposed the bill on us as they want to win the (Lok Sabha) election by taking the votes of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.” The “north-east bandh” called by the NESO is being enforced by its member organisations such as the Mizo Zirlai Pawal (MZP), the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), the Garo Students’ Union (GSU), the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) and the Twipra Students’ Federation (TSF).
Large sections of people in Assam and other northeastern states have been protesting against the bill, saying it will nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after March 24, 1971, should be deported.
Notably, the Lok Sabha today passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Speaking on the bill, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said it will pave way for the religious minorities—the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis— from these states to get Indian citizenship.
A day after pulling out of the BJP-led government in Assam over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the AGP today demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and dared the saffron party to face fresh polls.
The Sonowal government has no moral right to continue and if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has the courage, it should face fresh election, senior Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said here.
“The BJP-led government was formed in Assam on the basis of a pre-poll alliance with the AGP. As this alliance no longer exists now, we demand that the current Assam government be dissolved,” Mahanta told reporters. Accusing the BJP of adopting an anti-Assam policy, Mahanta said, “Let the BJP form a new government alone. We will welcome that”.