Protests over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which is expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 9th, 2019, have intensified in Assam, prompting Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to call for peace and appealing the youth to stay away from protests.
Student leader turned politician, Sonowal had to face the wrath of the anti-Bill supporters twice on December 8th, 2019. He was shown black flags at two separate locations in the state by the volunteers of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). Last week, his house in Dibrugarh was gheraoed by the activists of the AASU, of which he was the former president.
While laying the foundation stone of a double-lane flyover on the Guwahati-Shillong (GS) Road on December 8th, 2019, Sonowal said that the youths must not be misled to join agitations based on concocted and baseless grounds. He said that the youth of the state must not invest the productive time of their lives participating in protest rallies.
The bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution there. It proposes to make the people from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi faiths who entered India on or before December 31st, 2014, eligible for Indian citizenship.
The students of various colleges and universities of Assam have also joined the protests. The students of the Dibrugarh University (DU) – Sonowal’s alma mater – has ‘banned’ the entry of the Chief Minister and other ministers, MLAs supporting the Bill. The students of the Gauhati University and Bhattadev University have also ‘banned’ the entry of the CAB supporters.
On December 7th, 2019, the students of the DU along with students of several educational institutes of Dibrugarh came out of their campuses and hit the town’s streets in protest against the Bill. The students assembled at the Thana Chariali junction and sang O Mur Apunar Desh – a video of which has now gone viral on social media.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah will introduce the Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 9th, 2019. The protesting students’ bodies said that the Bill will nullify the provisions of the 1985 Assam Accord, which fixed March 24th, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.
Demanding to scrap of the Bill, the North East Students’ Organization (Neso) has called a ‘Northeast Bandh’ on December 10th, 2019 while All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union, All Assam Chutia Students’ Union and All Moran Students Union has called for ‘Assam Bandh’ on December 9th, 2019. Security has been tightened across the state.