Assam: Bandh against Centre’s move to grant SC/ST status to six tribes

Assam, Jan 12 Protesters demonstrating against a government move to grant SC/ST status to six tribes burnt tires and used tree trunks to block roads, in the Bodoland Territorial Area districts in Assam on Friday, PTI reported. The Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organisations of Assam had called a 12-hour bandh on Friday in the state to protest the Centre’s decision.

The strike was effective in Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa and Chirang, Bongaigaon, in adivasi-dominated areas of Morigaon, Nagaon, Hojai, Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts. Shops, markets, educational institutions, banks and private offices remained closed. Attendance in government offices was at a minimum.

The police said the protesters tried to block movement of vehicles on national highways. Trucks were stranded on NH-36 at Doboka due to one such blockade.

However, normal life in Guwahati was unaffected by the bandh.

The All Assam Students’ Union said on Thursday that protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, will continue until it is scrapped, though the Center failed to pass it in the Rajya Sabha, The Assam Tribune reported. The students’ union also criticized Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, a former member, for not opposing the bill.

The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years, even if they do not possess the necessary documents.

All Assam Students’ Union Chief Advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre might try to pass the bill in the next session of Parliament. Bhattacharya said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the bill would be passed even before a Joint Parliamentary Committee had prepared its report on it. He claimed that the BJP showed its “autocratic behaviour” by passing the bill in the Lok Sabha over the objections of some of its own allies.

Bhattacharya said the students’ union and other organisations opposing the bill will launch a nationwide movement against the “anti-national” activities of the BJP government, to build public pressure against the bill. If the bill is still passed, the students’ union will explore legal options, he added. Bhattacharya said that while the chief ministers of Mizoram and Meghalaya opposed the bill, Sonowal did not do so. “The Centre would not have tried to impose the bill if the chief minister had taken a bold stand,” he asserted.

In Guwahati, the police detained 37 students for allegedly violating Section 144 during their protests against the bill. Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code prohibits the gathering of four or more persons. The students, who belonged to Cotton University, Handique Girls’ College, B Borooah College, Assam Engineering Institute, Dibrugarh University, Pandu College, Guahati College and Pragjyotish College, were briefly arrested before being released.

Meanwhile, the students of Cotton University withdrew their indefinite fast on Thursday after the Rajya Sabha failed to pass the bill. However, Post Graduate Students’ Union of Guahati University began a hunger strike, and said they will publish booklet on the Assam Accord and the bill to create awareness against the legislation.

Litterateurs Nagen Saikia and Rongbong Terang, who the Centre had appointed to a committee to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, refused to be part of the panel on Thursday, The Assam Tribune reported. Saikia, in a letter to Satyendra Garg, the Ministry of Home Affairs joint secretary for the North East, said the Citizenship Bill was against the “secular spirit” of the country. Saikia claimed Assam will lose its linguistic and cultural identity if the bill is passed.

Terang, on the other hand, felt that no such committee can be constituted without representation from the All Assam Students’ Union. “My conscience has barred me from being a part of the committee,” he wrote to the joint secretary. Credit

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