GUWAHATI, May 17, 2018 (TNN): Student of Dibrugarh University on Wednesday said they would not allow the chief minister to enter his alma mater until the Center drop the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This comes close on the heels of Sonowal’s announcement last week that he would step down as CM if he could not protect the interests of the people of Assam.
Since the visit of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the bill on May 7, the state has seen unprecedented street protests against the proposed legislation that offers citizenship to refugees belonging to Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan on religious grounds. The protesters fear that granting of citizenship to migrants from Bangladesh would turn the indigenous people into a minority in their own state.
“Sarbananda Sonowal has said there is no reason for him to continue as the chief minister if he cannot protect the interests of the people of the state. Now, we have decided that we will not allow him to enter the Dibrugarh University campus unless he gets the bill scrapped,” general secretary of Dibrugarh University Post Graduate Students’ Union David Hazarika said. He added, “We are against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill because it is against the people of Assam.”
On Tuesday, the streets of Dibrugarh – Sonowal’s home town – rang with the angry slogans of protesters against the bill. The rally took off from Dibrugarh University and was led by the powerful All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu), which had once led the anti-foreigner Assam Agitation and of which Sonowal is a former president.
In Guwahati, anti-bill agitators are preparing the ground for a massive protest to coincide with BJP president Amit Shah’s visit here on Sunday. Shah will chair a meeting of the North East Democratic Alliance, a BJP-led umbrella organization of regional parties of the northeast. The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) on Wednesday called for a ‘Black Day’ on May 20 in protest against Shah’s visit. “We urge the state government to formally permit us to display black flags at the airport here upon his arrival and at the venues of the meetings he will address. The demonstration will be non-violent, with no confrontation or conflict,” KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi said.
The state unit of Congress also took out protest rallies at different places in the state, including one here. On Tuesday, the All India Congress Committee, after a detailed discussion with its MPs from the state, asked every member of the party to oppose the amendment bill, irrespective of the community she or he represents. The party had faced severe criticism after its leaders in the Barak Valley spoke in favour of the bill when the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the bill held a public hearing in Silchar.
As the state-wide protest gains momentum every day, the discontent has spilled over to neighbouring Tripura as well. The JPC, which visited Assam and Meghalaya this time, is scheduled to visit Tripura soon.
Like Assam and Meghalaya, Tripura shares a long border with Bangladesh and has dealt with the issue of illegal migration for decades. The Tripura Peoples’ Front, the Tripura State Party and the Tipraha faction of the Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Tripura came together and sat for day-long hunger strike in protest against the bill last Wednesday.
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