Assam govt warns bandh supporters

Assam govt warns bandh supporters

At least 44 organisations have called a 12-hour bandh from 5 am on Tuesday to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. Representative image.

 The BJP-led Assam government on Monday warned of action against Tuesday's bandh call opposing NDA’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 but the protesters resolved to defy the government dictate.

At least 44 organisations have called a 12-hour bandh from 5 am on Tuesday to protest against the bill, which seeks to offer citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who faced “religious persecution.” The bandh supporters fear that the bill would reduce the indigenous communities into minority.    

“Bandh has been declared unconstitutional by Gauhati High Court and the Supreme Court and so we have asked the government employees to attend their duties, otherwise it will be contempt of court. We have also asked the traders to open their shops or offices,” cabinet minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters here on Monday.

The Asom Gana Parishad, an ally of the BJP government, too is organizing a protest rally here on Tuesday to register its protest against the bill, which is pending in a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). A delegation of AGP, led by its president Atul Bora (agriculture minister) and two other ministers--Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhushan Choudhury met the JPC chairman Rajendra Agarwala in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday and opposed the bill.

Organisations including the AGP want that the foreigner issue must be solved based on March 24, 1971 cut-off date which was agreed in the 1985 Assam Accord which was signed by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and organizations leading the anti-foreigners movement between 1979 to 1985. “We want all post-March 24, 1971 illegal migrants to go—be it Hindus or Muslims. But the BJP and the RSS want to give citizenship based on religion to strengthen their Hindu vote bank and destroy culture, language and identity of the indigenous communities,” said Akhil Gogoi, an RTI activist and leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, a peasants rights body leading the agitation against the bill.  

State BJP leaders and MLAs met Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal here on Monday morning seeking action against the bandh supporters. The BJP says Hindus can’t be foreigners in India.