Thousands protest against proposed Citizenship Bill in Assam; agitators flay BJP-led Centre, state govts

Guwahati: Thousands of people attempted to march towards the Assam secretariat here on Friday against the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, but were halted by the security forces.

People from 70 organisations were part of the march held as part of their 'Janata Bhawan Gherao' programme. On being stopped by security personnel, the protesters squatted on the Last Gate Road, behind the secretariat, blocking traffic on the busy thoroughfare for several hours, police said.

Members and supporters of the organisations, led by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and the Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP), had congregated here on Friday morning to gherao the secretariat.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Barricades had been placed around the government building and personnel from the Assam Police and the CRPF were deployed in large numbers to prevent the protesters from staging their 'Sankalpa Shikha Jatra' against the Bill.

The demonstrators held a massive rally on the road with leaders of the organisations speaking against the BJP-led governments at the state and the Centre for "imposing the Bill on Assam", despite prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr P C imposed here since Thursday.

They also criticised Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for "remaining silent on the issue despite repeated protests against the Bill".

On Guwahati police commissioner Pradip Chandra Saloi's request to the demonstrators to withdraw their protest, the agitators demanded that he carry their message to the government for holding talks with them on the Bill, within seven days.

When Saloi assured them that he would convey their message to the government, the demonstrators cleared the road. KMSS chief Akhil Gogoi, however, said, "Our agitation programmes will continue against the Bill".

He also accused the state government of "working against the interest of the indigenous people of the state by imposing the Bill threatening the identity, language, culture of the indigenous people and unity of Assam".

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.

Speaking on the occasion, All Minority Students Union (AAMSU) president Ajijur Rahman said, as per the Assam Accord of 1985, Hindus or Muslims from Bangladesh and Pakistan who came to the state after March 24, 1971 would have to leave.
Large sections of people, organisations in the northeast and leading political party AGP, which is an ally of the ruling BJP, are opposed to the Bill.

They claim that it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai accused the the chief minister of functioning "under the orders of the RSS" and said Sonowal should "give up his Hitlerian rule as it is against the people of Assam."

All Tai Ahom Students' Union (ATASU) president Litul Buragohain criticised the chief minister "for his silence on the bill."
"He does not deserve to be called a 'Jatiya Nayak' (people's hero) anymore. He should be called Jatiya Khalnayak (villain of the people)," the ATASU president said.

Sonowal was a former president of the All Assam Students Union (AASU), which had conferred the 'Jatiya Nayak' title upon him when the Supreme Court had struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) Act in 2005 following a case filed by him against it as a Lok Sabha MP.

Another speaker warned, "in a democracy if the voice of people is not heeded by government and political parties, we have the power to remove any government".

The demonstrators accused the administration of imposing prohibitory order under Section 144 Cr P C "to muzzle the democratic voice of the citizens".

The speakers also alleged that the protesters coming in motorcycles from different parts of the state were not allowed to proceed to Guwahati to participate in the rally.

Prohibitory orders had been imposed in the three police districts of Guwahati city with immediate effect on Thursday, ahead of the gherao programme against the Citizen (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Assam director general of police Kuladhar Saikia had Thursday warned that the administration would take strong action against anyone trying to break the law and strict vigil would also be kept in Guwahati.


Updated Date: Nov 16, 2018 21:05 PM

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