Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 9th, 2019 will introduce the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha. The Bill that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there has triggered widespread protests in Assam.
The Bill will be tabled in the afternoon and later it will be taken up for discussion and passage, according to the Lok Sabha’s List of Business for December 9th, 2019.
Protests have intensified in Assam with a large section of people, civil organisations and students’ bodies opposing the Bill, saying it goes against the spirit of secularism and will nullify the provisions of the historic 1985 Assam Accord, which fixed March 24th, 1971, as the cut-off date to identify illegal foreigners.
Effigies are being burnt and multiple rallies are being organised across the state to oppose the Bill. Unknown protestors put up posters with messages against the Bill outside the private residences of the CM’s media advisor Hrishikesh Goswami, legal advisor Santanu Bharali, Assam Education Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya and other ministers and MLAs of the ruling party.
The anti-Bill agitators said that the permanent settlement of illegal immigrants will disturb the region’s demography, culture and tradition. In Assam, ministers, MPs and MLAs have become the targets of protestors opposed to the Bill.
The protestors also slammed the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an ally of the BJP in the state. The protestors are grilling the lawmakers on the Bill wherever they are spotting them and waving black flags in meetings and at convoys of the ministers and MLAs.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on December 8th, 2019 had to face the wrath of the protestors as they waved black flags at his convoy which was travelling to Kaliabor in Nagaon by road to attend ‘Dhriti Bartana’ Mahotsav.
In Golaghat, AGP president and Assam Agriculture Minister Atul Bora got stranded as a group of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) protestors gheraoed his private residence. In Dibrugarh, the AASU activists vandalised the AGP office and also staged a protest outside the residence of BJP MLA Prasanta Phukan on December 8th, 2019.
Veteran AGP leader and Assam Food and Civil Supplies Minister Phani Bhushan Choudhury had to literally run to safety on December 7th, 2019 to escape the rage of protestors in Bongaigaon’s Manikpur. The video of Choudhury running from the meet became fodder for memes and jokes.
Union Minister of State for Food Processing, Rameswar Teli was heckled by the AASU volunteers in his home district, Dibrugarh, on December 7th, 2019. Teli had gone to Naharkatiya to take stock of the preparation of Jaipur Rain Forest Festival when he was gheraoed by the AASU workers.
Demanding the government to scrap the Bill, the All Moran Students’ Union has called for a 48-hour ‘Assam bandh’ beginning on December 9th, 2019 at 5 am. On the other hand, the influential North East Students’ Organisation called for an 11-hour ‘Northeast bandh’ on December 10th, 2019.
The Bill is expected to have a smooth passage in both the Houses. In the 545-member Lok Sabha, the ruling BJP has 303 members and in the 245-member Rajya Sabha, it has 81 MPs.
According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31st, 2014, facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
The Inner Line Permit areas are Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh and the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura (Mizoram too has Sixth Schedule areas) in the Northeast region have been kept out of the ambit of the Bill.
The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the Bill in its previous tenure. Though the Bill was passed by the previous Lok Sabha in January 2019, it lapsed in the Rajya Sabha.
Photo: Time8 and Amit Shah/Facebook