Large parts of the northeast on Tuesday simmered over protests by students’ unions and Left-democratic organisations against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha.
A day before the divisive legislation is tabled in the Rajya Sabha, normal life was paralysed in Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley during the shutdown, led by the All Assam Students’ Union and the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO).
The strike coincided with the bandh called by Left-leaning organisations, including the SFI, DYFI, AIDWA, AISF and AISA. Huge processions were taken out in different areas of Guwahati, with protesters raising slogans against the emotive legislation.
Agitators engaged in scuffle with security forces near the Secretariat and Assembly buildings in Assam when they were prevented from moving forward, police sources said.
In Dibrugarh district, bandh supporters clashed with CISF personnel. Three protesters sustained injuries as they tried to prevent workers of Oil India Ltd (OIL) from entering their offices in Duliajan.
Train services across Assam were affected as picketers blocked the tracks, a spokesperson for the Railways said. Examinations were shelved and rescheduled by universities because of the bandh.
The strike, however, had little impact in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley.
In Tripura, agitators participating in a bandh called by the NESO set a market, where shops were owned mostly by non-tribals, on fire in Dhalai district, police said. However, no one was injured in the incident and the blaze at Manughat market was doused, a senior police officer said.
“Security forces have been deployed in the market but the incident has created fear among the non-tribals who owned most of the shops,” the officer said.
The bandh threw normal life out of gear in Dhalai, West Tripura and Khowai districts with residents remaining indoors while attendance in offices was thin, he said.
Train services in the entire state came to a complete halt and vehicular movement was affected, the officer said.
Educational institutions, banks, commercial establishments and markets were closed while public and private vehicles were off the roads in most places of Arunachal Pradesh in response to the strike called by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU).
Attendance in government offices was almost nil during the bandh which began at 5 am, officials said.
The All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) observed a total shutdown in the state from 3 am to 6 pm, with the organisation warning that it would intensify its agitation if the bill was not immediately withdrawn.
Incidents of tyre burning and vandalisation of vehicles were reported in Meghalaya capital Shillong, as protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails at a police vehicle damaging it in Mawlai area, East Khasi Hills district deputy commissioner M W Nongbri told PTI.
Additional police and CRPF forces have been deployed in sensitive areas, officials said.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill piloted by Home Minister Amit Shah was passed by the Lok Sabha with an overwhelming majority on Monday night.
According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, non-Muslim minorities, who fled religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and moved to the country before December 31, 2014, will be accorded Indian citizenship.
It, however, exempted tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, and areas covered under The Inner Line Permit system, notified under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
Shah has asserted that the Modi government was committed to protecting the customs and culture of the northeastern states in an effort to assuage concerns that the proposed law will hurt their distinct identity and alter regional demography.