After 11-hr strike, Assamese protesters to launch economic blockade today, close export of petroleum and coal

Even as the Lok Sabha passed the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha, civil society organisations in Assam are bracing up for the second phase of agitation against the Bill in the form of an economic blockade. Seventy civil society organisations have already declared indefinite economic blockade restricting movement of commodities from Assam to other parts of India.

The economic blockade is going to take place a day after the state observed 11-hour bandh in protest of the bill on Tuesday.

Assam witnessed sporadic violence in different districts where moving vehicles along with offices of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were attacked. Even the movement of a number of trains was restricted.

Speaking about the declared protest programme that is going to take place from Wednesday, Junmoni Devi Khound, one of the female leaders of the movement said to Firstpost, "The economic blockade has started from today itself. But since a bandh was already called, the blockade programme was not evident. It will start in a full-fledged manner from tomorrow.”

After 11-hr strike, Assamese protesters to launch economic blockade today, close export of petroleum and coal

Police personnel keep vigil during a strike called by students organisations against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati. PTI

On Tuesday, as a part of the bandh roads were blocked in Guwahati and Dibrugarh, as a result of which movement of vehicles through roads was affected.

Nripen Bhattacharyya, a public relations officer in the Indian Railways, said that movement of long distance and short distance trains was affected due to the bandh.

“Trains were detained by protesters in Tinsukia, Makum and Moranhat stations, as a result of which movements of Rajdhani and other long-distance trains got affected,” he said.

Khound informed that as a part of the economic blockade, movement of trucks through the highways would be restricted in Assam-West Bengal bordering district of Dhubri.

Palash Sangmai, general secretary of the Asom Jatiyotabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad told Firstpost that not only the exit points but even sources of production would be closed to ensure that no production takes place to export commodities outside Assam.

"Our main target would be to block the outflow of resources from Assam, especially of those taken by the agencies which are under the Central Government. We will stop oil tankers that go out of Assam with petrol, diesel and other mineral products,” he said.

As per record published by the Industries Department of Assam, the state exported 19 petroleum products worth Rs 43 crores in the year 2015.

Sangmai also said that to stop the movement of crude oil through the pipeline, civil society organisations would attempt to stop production in the oil fields

"We would attempt closing off entry to oil fields to ensure that no worker can go to the production site. Similarly, we would also attempt to stop trucks carrying materials to production sites which would finally result in the closing down of work in the oil fields," he added.

Sangmai said that the organisations would attempt at closing down work in the coal fields in Assam as well.

With the centre determined to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in both the houses it is likely that situations may flare up in Assam during the protests. The plan to launch the economic blockade from Wednesday is also keeping the Assam police on its toes and is bracing up to face the protesters.

Kuladhar Saikia, Director General of Police, Assam said to Firstpost, "The superintendents of police have already been instructed to take adequate and rapid action in case of any law and order situation. Additional forces have been deployed."

Significantly, the economic blockade declared by civil society organisations in Assam would be the second of its kind in the last decade.

The last blockade Assam witnessed was in the year 2011 when the state rose against the construction of a big dam on the Subansiri river. During that protest, all roads leading to the project site was blocked by protesters, as a result of which no truck carrying building materials could reach the destination. The Subansiri river dam project has still not been completed.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, aims at providing citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians. However, it does not have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas, who also face persecution in Pakistan.

The contentious Bill, however, has brought back the fear among indigenous tribes and ethnic groups of becoming minorities in the state.

These fears have been aggravated due to the Centre’s recent notification to register Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian infiltrators from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh as Indians in 16 districts across seven states in India.

The Centre on Wednesday passed the Bill in the Lok Sabha and is likely to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

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Updated Date: Jan 09, 2019 07:09:14 IST

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