Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) across the country have intensified as the Rajya Sabha cleared the Bill on Wednesday. Opposition parties and civil society members across the country have been organising protests and gatherings in various places, while the entire Northeast, especially Assam and Tripura, is boiling with the anger against the Centre.
The people defied curfew in Guwahati on Thursday morning to protest against the CAB as the situation remained tense throughout Assam, with the Army conducting flag march in the city. Guwahati, the epicentre of anti-CAB protests, was placed under indefinite curfew last night. The Army was called in at four places and Assam Rifles personnel were deployed in Tripura on Wednesday as the two Northeastern states plunged into chaos. The internet services in Assam have been suspended for another 48 hours.
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) called for a protest at 11 am in Guwahati. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti appealed to the people to step out for peaceful protests. The people protested on the road in the night despite curfew on Wednesday.
Vehicles were stranded in various cities of Assam due to heavy blockade. Half a dozen vehicles were burnt. The houses of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leaders were also targeted in various parts of the state.
“The curfew will continue till further orders. We are monitoring the situation very closely. So far, the situation is under control,” said Assam Police Additional Director General (Law and Order) Mukesh Agrawal while speaking to PTI.
The offices of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Dibrugarh, Sadya and Tezpur were reportedly attacked. The BJP office in Tezpur was also targeted.
Late in the night, curfew was also imposed in Dibrugarh for an indefinite period, as protesters targeted the houses of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union minister Rameswar Teli in the district.
As tens of thousands of anti-CAB protesters descended on the streets of Assam on Wednesday, clashing with police and plunging the state into chaos—of magnitude unseen since the violent six-year movement by students that ended with the signing of the Assam accord—Guwahati was placed under curfew.
Assam has been on the boil ever since the CAB was tabled in Lok Sabha. People from all walks of life have joined with the protest against the CAB which poses a serious threat to “livelihood and political destiny but also to cultural and linguistic identity”.
The contentious Bill which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was passed by Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, while Lok Sabha cleared the Bill on Monday. According to the Bill, a non-Muslim person who entered India on or before December 31, 2014 and have lived in the country for six years can apply for Indian citizenship.
The people in the Northeast fear that it will primarily benefit the illegal Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh who have settled across the region.
The Left parties have called for an all-India protest on December 19. Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI(ML)], All India Forward Block (AIFB) and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) will be part of the nationwide protest against the CAB. The Left leaders have said that the Bill violates the Indian Constitution and aims at destroying the secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic.
“The Left parties strongly oppose this Bill that links citizenship with the religious affiliation of an individual, the very antitheses of secularism,” reads the joint press statement of the Left parties.
“The Bill aims to further sharpen the communal divide and the social polarisation in the country, which is dangerously detrimental to the unity and integrity of our country. The passage of this Bill, along with the proclamations by this Modi-Shah BJP government to extend the National Register of Citizens to the entire country, is the twin combination to change the character of the India republic- from a secular democratic one into a ‘Hindutva Rashtra’, the RSS political project,” adds the press statement.
(With inputs from PTI)