Assam bandh against citizenship bill evokes widespread response

By PTC News -- October 23, 2018 10:10 pm -- Updated:Feb 15, 2021

The 12-hour Assam bandh called by 60 organisations against the citizenship bill evoked a widespread response in the state on Tuesday with markets and financial institutions closed.

BJP-led Assam government's alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) extended "moral support" to the bandh.

The AGP took out a massive rally to protest against the bill. It was led by party president and Agriculture Minister Atul Bora from Latasil Field to Chandmari area in Guwahati.

Bora said the party is not against the bandh as the two protests are opposing a common cause.

The bandh brought normal life in the state to a standstill.

During the bandh, picketers burnt tyres on roads across the state to prevent movement of vehicular traffic and blocked rail tracks early morning in a bid to prevent movement of trains, official sources said.

Shops, markets and financial institutions kept their shutters down, while attendance in offices and educational institutions was thin, the sources said.

State-run Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) city and long distance buses plied with the police escort on Tuesday. Private commercial vehicles, however, kept off the roads as operators claimed that damages to their vehicles during bandhs and riots are not compensated by insurance companies.

Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) and 58 other organisations had called the 12-hour bandh from 5 am to protest against the Centre's bid to pass the bill in the winter session of Parliament.

The Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had extended support to the bandh.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.

The Assam government had on Monday directed all district administrations to ensure that there was no bandh in the state. Deputy commissioners had issued orders that all shops, business establishments and educational institutions remain open, transport facilities ply normally and all government officials should attend to their duties on Tuesday.

AGP cabinet colleagues Kesab Mahanta and Phani Bhusan Choudhury were part of the protest rally besides former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.

Addressing a gathering before the start of the procession, Bora said the rally was called against the bill as it threatened the existence, identity, culture and language of the indigenous people of the state.

"We have already made our stand clear on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Under no circumstances, are we going to support it. We will fight till the end against the bill," he said.

Bora said the party was opposed to the bill as it "violated" the Assam Accord which was the result of a six-year-long Assam agitation from 1979 against illegal migrants when 855 people died for the cause.

A team of AGP ministers, MLAs and leaders had recently visited Delhi to meet the members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the bill to put forward the party's views on it, he added.

Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said the Gauhati High Court had ruled that calling a bandh was illegal and as such the state-wide bandh could not be allowed and anyone supporting it would be committing contempt of court.

The bandh organisers claimed that the response to the bandh is a "public referendum" which rejects the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

"The impact is simply unprecedented. We are thankful to the people of Assam for their complete, spontaneous and peaceful response. Such an exercise can easily be termed as a public referendum rejecting the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill," KMSS Adviser Akhil Gogoi said at a press conference here.

"The unprecedented impact of the bandh proves that the people do not care about government's threatening tactics when it comes to their own land and identity. The people will not accept a single Hindu Bangladeshi that the BJP wants to impose through the bill," AJYCP General Secretary Palash Changmai said.

The Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government had a "war mentality" to spoil the bandh, but it failed as the people understand that the bill will be deadly if it is passed, he added.

Gauhati West MLA Ramendra Narayan Kalita said, "We will not allow the bill to be passed in Parliament and we are taking all measures for it. The Centre has to understand the sentiments of the people of Assam."

"We have been opposing the passage of the bill in Parliament and will continue to do so," said another AGP MLA Satyabrat Kalita.

Assam Water Resource Minister Keshav Mahanta told the gathering that his party would "under no circumstance" allow the Centre to pass the bill.

"Come what may, we will not allow the Centre to pass the bill. Anything that goes against the Assamese community, we will never support it," Mahanta asserted. PTI

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