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Two Ministers, Congress Join Massive Protests Against Citizenship Bill in Assam

The All Assam Students Union has threatened to restrict the movement of ministers and MLAs in and out of their constituencies as a mark of protest.

Karishma Hasnat | News18.com

Updated:May 29, 2018, 11:18 PM IST
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Two Ministers, Congress Join Massive Protests Against Citizenship Bill in Assam
Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad activists and others in Tinsukia, Assam in 2016, protesting the Modi government’s decision to grant refugee status to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh. Credit: PTI
Guwahati: The Congress party and two ministers of the ruling coalition in Assam joined a day-long fast called by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) in Guwahati on Tuesday to protest against the Centre’s proposed move to introduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The stir, held at the AEI Field, Chandmari, was led by 28 ethnic student organisations along with protesters from Northeast Students' Organization (NESO). Eight tribal literary bodies also joined the symbolic fast.

The AASU warned the Centre against the passing of the Bill, calling it ‘communal, unconstitutional, anti-indigenous and anti-northeast’.

Samujjal Bhattacharya, chief advisor of All Assam Students' Union and NESO, reiterated that they will not allow the Northeast to become a “dumping ground for illegal Bangladeshis”.

“All sections of people took part in the mass fasting today. It is a strong warning to both the Centre and the state government not to impose the Bill on Assam and Northeast. Assam should get constitutional safeguard as per Assam Accord, and the international border should be sealed. At the same time, there should be a bipartite agreement between the Government of India and Bangladesh to deport illegal migrants,” said Bhattacharya.

The AASU has further threatened to restrict the movement of ministers and MLAs in and out of their constituencies as a mark of protest. A decision about their next step would be taken at a meeting convened on June 2.

The movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has brought about a unification of various state groups, manifesting anti-bill sentiments and advocating for indigenous rights.

The Assam Primary Teachers’ Association and the Sadou Axam Karmachari Parishad (SAKP) also lent support to the fast that saw the overwhelming presence of freedom fighters, veterans, litterateurs, artists and journalists.

Meanwhile, former Assam chief minister and AGP leader, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who also took part in the protest, said that the Bill violated the salient features of the Constitution as well as certain provisions of the Assam Accord. The AGP once again threatened to break away from the BJP-led government if the Bill was passed.

“All organisations that took part in the Assam Agitation (1979-1985) and their leaders have come forward to support this hunger strike. The central government should try to understand the sentiments of the people. If the Bill is passed, it will violate the cause of Assam Accord,” said AGP president and Agriculture minister Atul Bora, who termed the Bill as a ‘threat’ to the culture, language and identity of the indigenous people.

“We are committed to oppose the Bill. In forging an alliance with BJP, the prime issue was the implementation of Assam Accord in letter and spirit,” said AGP leader and Water Resources Minister, Keshab Mahanta.

Protesters in Brahmaputra valley, opposing the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955, see it as a move to endorse Hindus from Bangladesh who migrated to Assam after 1971. The government has not responded to the issue yet.

(With inputs from Bishnu Saikia)

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