Guwahati | An 11-hour Northeast bandh called by a number of students’ organisations and political parties on Tuesday, to protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, began amid tight security.
In Assam, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has called for a state-wide bandh after a gap of 10 years and it is being supported by the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which withdrew support to the BJP-led government in Assam on Monday, the opposition Congress, the AIUDF, and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS). Tyres were burnt on roads at various places in Assam to prevent movement of vehicles. Vehicles were damaged in Guwahati, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts,the police said.
Railway tracks were blocked briefly in Guwahati and Dibrugarh district but movement of trains, including that of the Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express, resumed after the GRP removed protestors from the tracks, railway sources said. Train and flight schedules remained unaffected.
Shops, markets, financial institutions kept their shutters down, educational institutions, private offices remained closed and private vehicles, including long-distance buses, kept off roads in the Brahmaputra valley, the police and official sources said. Attendance in government offices was thin as the employees had difficulty in reaching their workplace in the absence of adequate public transport, the sources said. A skeleton service of the government-run Assam State Transport Corporation buses was pressed into service.
Several students’ bodies of the region have decided to observe the ”bandh” in support of the call given by the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella organisation of students’ unions, of which the AASU is a constituent. Thirty ethnic organisations are also supporting the bandh in Assam. The bandh evoked response in the Bengali-majority Barak valley also where Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 4, had announced that the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 will be passed as soon as possible in parliament as a penance for past injustices.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to people from minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they do not possess any proper document.
The AGP and other groups in Assam have said the provisions of the bill will nullify the 1985 Assam Accord, which provides for deportation of all illegal migrants, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after March, 1971. Security arrangements were intensified and patrolling by the police and paramilitary forces intensified across the state in view of the bandh called by the AASU after ten years.
Assam Director General of Police Kuladhar Saikia said, “District SPs have been instructed to ensure public peace. Appropriate forces have been deployed across the state to prevent any untoward incident. Patrolling has also been intensified at all places.”
Meanwhile, member organisations of the NESO in other states such as Mizo Zirlai Pawal (MZP), All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), Khasi Students Union (KSU), Garo Students Union (GSU), Naga Students” Federation (NSF), All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) and Twipra Students Federation (TSF) are also supporting the bandh.