GUWAHATI: Protesters squatted on rail tracks and tried to put up blockades on Tuesday morning in a bid to disrupt rail services across Assam, as the state-wide 'bandh' call by at least 50 organisations got underway.
The 12-hour 'bandh' call has been given by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and various other organisations in protest against the Centre's move to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill -2016 in the Winter session of Parliament, set to begin in November end.
The Congress and the All India United Democratic Front have also supported the 'bandh' call in the wake of a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee with the Ministries of Home and External Affairs over the Citizenship Bill.
The Bill seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, drawing opposition from several organisations in Assam, which is under the rule of the BJP government, led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which is a partner of the BJP-led alliance government in the state, is organising a rally in protest against the JPC's proposed meeting. The AGP expects at least 50,000 people to participate in the rally.
The organizations have called the bandh against the JPC meeting with the officials of MHA and Ministry of Externa Affairs without visiting Assam for a second time to take on board every shade of opinion. Although the JPC, led by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, had visited Assam in May this year, not all organisations and leaders could meet it.
Meanwhile, some BJP leaders who met Sonowal on Monday urged the government not to accord permission to a November 17 meeting of Bengali organisations in Guwahati, supporting the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.
"The proposed meeting on November 17 is likely to result in law and order issues. We will not allow the November 17 meeting," said Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
He said that according to a Gauhati High Court order, calling a bandh is illegal. "The court has termed the bandh as illegal. We have to follow the court's order. Those calling a bandh will have to pay for the damages that they cause," he added.
The KMSS clarified that the organisation does not support calling bandhs, but a bandh call on Tuesday was necessitated as the BJP-led government in Assam is behaving in a dictatorial manner. "We cannot allow the government to make Assam a second Jammu & Kashmir or a Tripura, where the indigenous people have become a minority," said KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi.