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Strip March, Barred BJP Leaders, Blocked Highway: Protests Turn Fierce Ahead of Citizenship Bill in LS

Protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill have rocked the streets in different states in the region. But the BJP, which is in power in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura is far from handling the situation.

Anup Sharma |

Updated:December 9, 2019, 11:36 AM IST
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Strip March, Barred BJP Leaders, Blocked Highway: Protests Turn Fierce Ahead of Citizenship Bill in LS
Home Minister Amit Shah arrives in Parliament on Monday.

Guwahati: It took quite some time for the BJP to get into the political landscape of northeast India. The saffron party and its think tank Rastriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) had to make efforts for decades to make the lotus bloom in the region.

However, three years after the saffron surge swept across the region, the party is seemingly losing its ground in the region—thanks to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which was approved by the Union cabinet recently and is waiting to be tabled in the Parliament during the ongoing session.

Protests against the contentious Bill have rocked the streets in different states in the region. But the BJP, which is in power in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, and partners of the ruling alliance in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram, are far from handling the worsening situation.

The BJP, which made its first major political victory in Assam in 2016 assembly polls, soon witnessed success in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. I tmade a thumping success in Tripura by ousting the Left and became partners of the ruling alliance in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram in the recent years.

Protests in different forms have become the order of the day in different northeastern states. While members of organisations such as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) have been carrying out candlelight processions and rallies, the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) has called for an 11-hour Assam northeast bandh on December 10 to register its protest against the contentious bill.

Another group of people on Thursday organised a semi-nude march in Dibrugarh, the hometown of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Protests have also rocked the alma mater of Sonowal Dibrugarh University on Wednesday. The Cotton University of Guwahati has banned entry of BJP leaders in the campus premises until the ruling party changes its stand on the CAB.

In Tripura, thousands of the tribal communities took to the street on Thursday and blocked the national Highway and railway line. Backed by the tribal group, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), the tribals vowed to demonstrate stronger protests in the coming days.

Another tribal group in the state, Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Tripura (IPFT), which is an alliance partner of the BJP-led government in the state, had also staged a massive protest in Delhi recently against the CAB.

The Union Home Minister Amit Shah had met representatives of All Assam Students Union, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Manipur People against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (MANPAC) and student bodies of Nagaland on December 3 in New Delhi.

Shah had also met the chief ministers, political parties and organisations from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Nagaland but a majority of these groups clearly expressed their opposition to the CAB during the meeting.

“We are not accepting the CAB. A political party cannot impose their will on the people of Assam only because they have majority in the Parliament. The people of Assam have decided to oppose the CAB and we are going to oppose implementation of the CAB tooth and nail,” said AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya.

The students’ body also had attacked the chief minister for not opposing the CAB like his counterparts in Meghalaya and Nagaland. “CM Sarbananda Sonowal is silent while his counterparts in Meghalaya and Nagaland have opposed the CAB,” said AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, while speaking at a function in Jorhat, said Assamese people overcame all challenges successfully against their adversaries in the past and any apprehension in regard to any threat to its identity did not hold ground.

The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led government in Meghalaya, where the BJP is a partner, has openly opposed the Bill. “We told Amit Shah during the meeting that CAB should not be implemented in Meghalaya,” said Meghalaya deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong, adding that the MDA alliance is planning to write a letter to the central government to make its stand against the CAB clear.

Despite there being a BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh, the consultative committee instituted by the state government urged the central government to exclude the hill state from the purview of the CAB. The committee headed by state Home Minister Bamang Felix urged Amit Shah to not enforce the CAB in the state.

“The CAB exposes serious lack of understanding of the Government of India and the ruling BJP on the nature of the problems arising out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. The Bhojpuris, Nepalis, Assamese and many other Indian citizens of Assam excluded from the NRC cannot claim to be persecuted non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They shall forever remain stateless,” said Suhas Chakma, a Delhi-based human rights activist.

“Millions of non-Muslim Indians, especially Bengali-speaking Hindus, will be made stateless first, and thereafter, made to wait till their death for processing of their citizenship applications, and they shall remain stateless in the meantime. The Muslims who are excluded from the CAB will be declared as illegal immigrants, though Bangladesh government shall never accept their deportation to Bangladesh. Ultimately, Indians who do not possess the documents prior to the cutoff date for the proposed National Register of Citizens shall suffer torture, and further pauperisation,” he said.

“We have told the union home minister to exempt Manipur from the purview of the Bill as enforcement of the CAB will lead to increase in the flow of illegal migrants to the state and the situation might go out of control,” said MANPAC spokesperson Ningthouja Lancha told this reporter.

“We urge upon the central government not to introduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Parliament. We strongly believe that the proposed law would destabilise the demographic structure of the northeast and jeopardise the stability, life and culture of the indigenous people of the region,” said INPT General Secretary Jagadhish Debbarma.

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