GUWAHATI, Dec 10: Large parts of the Northeast on Tuesday simmered over protests by student unions and left-democratic organisations against the contentious citizenship amendment bill (CAB) passed by the Lok Sabha.
A day before the divisive legislation is tabled in the Rajya Sabha, normal life was paralyzed in Assam’s Brahmaputra valley during the shutdown, led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO). The strike coincided with the bandh called by Left-leaning organisa-tions, including the SFI, the DYFI, the AIDWA, the AISF and the AISA.
Huge processions were taken out in different areas of Guwahati, with protesters raising slogans against the emotive legislation.
Agitators engaged in a scuffle with security forces near the secretariat and assembly buildings in Assam when they were prevented from moving forward, police sources said.
In Dibrugarh district, bandh supporters clashed with CISF personnel. Three protesters sustained injuries as they tried to prevent workers of Oil India Ltd from entering their offices in Duliajan.
Train services across Assam were affected as picketers blocked the tracks, a spokesperson for the railways said.
Examinations were shelved and rescheduled by universities because of the bandh.
The strike, however, had little impact in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley.
Slogan-shouting agitators picketed the Assam headquarters of the BJP, the Asom Gana Parishad, the Doordarshan Kendra and the office of a private TV channel owned by the wife of Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Speaking at a function in Guwahati, Sonowal asked protesters to not spread “misinformation” and refrain from creating unrest in the state.
“Building a robust work culture in the state should be the prime objective of everyone and youth must not be misled to join agitations,” he said.
Meanwhile, AASU leaders on Tuesday evening said they will move the Supreme Court against the controversial bill.
In Tripura, agitators participating in a bandh called by the NESO set a market, where shops were owned mostly by non-tribals, on fire in Dhalai district, police said.
However, no one was injured in the incident and the blaze in Manughat market was doused, a senior police officer said.
“Security forces have been deployed in the market but the incident has created fear among the non-tribals who owned most of the shops,” the officer said.
The bandh threw normal life out of gear in Dhalai, West Tripura and Khowai districts with residents remaining indoors while attendance in offices was thin, he said.
Train services in the entire state came to a complete halt and vehicular movement was affected, the officer said.
Meanwhile, internet services have been suspended in the entire state for 48 hours from 2 pm on Tuesday in view of the ongoing protests, an official notification said.
The order also prohibits SMS messages of all mobile service providers.
An ailing two-month-old baby died at Bishramganj in Sepahijala district while being taken to a hospital as agitators had blocked vehicular traffic, police said.
The All Manipur Students’ Union observed a total shutdown in the state from 3 am to 6 pm, with the organisation warning that it would intensify its agitation if the bill is not immediately withdrawn.
Incidents of tyre burning and vandalization of vehicles were reported in Meghalaya capital Shillong, as protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails at a police vehicle, damaging it, in Mawlai area, East Khasi Hills DC MW Nongbri told PTI.
Additional police and CRPF forces have been deployed in sensitive areas, officials said.
NSF stages sit-in
Members of the Naga Students Federation (NSF) on Tuesday staged a sit-in outside the Raj Bhavan in Nagaland capital Kohima to protest against the CAB, even as the NESO, which called for a bandh in the Northeast, exempted the state from the stir, in view of the Hornbill Festival.
The festival, a major annual function that showcases the culture, art, handicrafts and food of Nagaland, is held every year from December 1-10 at a village here.
Raising slogans against the legislation, the NSF sought its immediate withdrawal, outside the Raj Bhavan.
Volunteers from various colleges, along with former NESO general secretary NSN Lotha, also joined the sit-in that lasted for one-and-half hours.
“We are all aware that the culture and identity of indigenous people in the Northeast is facing a massive threat from illegal immigrants. The bill will also encourage influx of immigrants,” NSF president Ninoto Awomi said.
Awomi stressed that that the inner line permit (ILP) regime in the state has done little to stop the influx.
“We have been told that Nagaland has been exempted from the purview of CAB, but despite ILP and others provisions, the state has not been able to control illegal immigration.
“The entire Northeast region is like one block. A small pocket in the region may get relief from the bill’s purview, but another pocket along the porous border might open for immigrants if the legislation is implemented. Soon, they will take over our land,” he claimed.
The NSF leader urged “all educated youth and responsible citizens of the state” to support the fight against the bill.
“I appeal to the union government to respect the sentiments of the region and protect its citizens, instead of sheltering illegal migrants,” he added.
Protests in Delhi
The national capital witnessed protest demonstrations by political parties, student bodies and civil society groups over the CAB on Tuesday.
The NESO is staging a protest against the bill at Jantar Mantar. People from various walks of life and across organisations have joined the stir.
The CPI (M)’s Delhi state committee members also held a protest at the same venue against the contentious bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) MPs had earlier held a protest near the Gandhi statue on the parliament premises.
Members of the left party were seen carrying banners, saying ‘CAB waapis lo (withdraw the CAB)’ and ‘Dharm aadharit CAB nahi chalega (won’t accept a CAB based on religion)’.
“This law is against our constitution. This law will be passed in Parliament, despite opposition. For the first time, religion has become the base for citizenship,” Prakash Karat of the CPI (M) said.
Several protesters under the banner, ‘United Against Hate (UAH)’, also raised slogans against the bill and the government at Jantar Mantar.
“It is anti-people bill and it will divide the country. We do not support this bill and if the government will ask us to submit the papers, we will better to go to jail than submitting our papers. We do not need to give evidence of our nationality,” said Khalid Saifi (38) from UAH.
Protestors barged into the office of the Janata Dal (United) in the area over Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s support to the CAB.
Another protester, 24-year-old student Nabina Khan, said the time has come when every single Indian should boycott this bill.
“The bill is communal and Islamophobic in nature. The government has made us feel like we are refugees in our own country. The bill has passed in the lower house of Parliament and we know it will pass in the upper house also, but we urge every single Indian to boycott it,” she said.
The protestors burnt a copy of the bill and were carrying placards that read ‘Withdraw CAB permanently’.
Also participating in the demonstration was Taslim Ahmed Rehmani, national secretary of the Social Democratic Party of India. Rehmani termed the bill antinational.
“This bill should be taken back as it is antinational. This will create differences between the people of the nation. The regional culture and demography will be diluted through this bill,” he added. (PTI)