Anti-CAA protestors gather in large numbers in Assam

Anti-CAA protestors gather in large numbers in Assam

Demonstrators take part in 'Satyagraha' to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Guwahati on December 16, 2019. (AFP photo)

Protesters came out in large numbers across Assam on Tuesday demanding repeal of the amended Citizenship Act and condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi for "ridiculing" the agitators with his comment that protesters could be identified by the clothes they were wearing.

Women, youths and senior citizens joined protest marches organised as part of 'Mass Satyagrah' by the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) at several places, even as the situation remained largely peaceful.

"We warn the government not to play with the sentiments of people who have come out on the roads.

"The prime minister says that he respects non-violent protesters, but the government here is trying to dominate and suppress us," AASU chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya said.

Addressing a huge gathering at the Latasil playground here, he said that the Assam government had thought that the protests would die down within 2-3 days and everything would settle down.

"They are wrong because unless the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is repealed, we will not settle. Do not insult us every time.

"Do not blame us later because the agitation will be more intense in the coming days," Bhattacharya said.

AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi criticised the prime minister for his comment that protesters could be identified by the "clothes they are wearing".

"It is unfortunate the PM cannot accept our dress and ridiculed us. We strongly condemn this.

"We will assemble everyday wearing our traditional dress," he asserted.

The prime minister had said at an election rally in Dumka on Sunday, "People who are setting fire (to property) can be seen on TV... They can be identified by the clothes they are wearing."

Gogoi further said that terming the protest in front of the Indian High Commission in London by NRIs, mostly Assamese, as "Pakistan-sponsored" is an "utmost insult" to the people of the state and the country in general.

University students and professionals had participated in the protest that was held in London on Saturday and was organised by the Facebook group 'Assamese in UK'.

Gogoi also dismissed state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's statement on Monday that the Centre will talk to peaceful agitators to listen to their grievances on the controversial Act.

"There will be no discussion at all. This is another attempt to cheat us. Why don't they just repeal the law?" asked the student leader.

Various agitational programmes began from Tuesday morning in many places, including Dhubri, Tezpur and Sivasagar.

A huge protest gathering took place at Nagaon, with people singing songs, reciting poems and performing skits. A protest march was also taken out.

"We will not accept this Act. It will kill our culture and identity. That is why we are on the roads today. We did not send our representatives for bringing us on the roads," protesters said.

In Jorhat, thousands assembled in front of the office of the deputy commissioner.

The Dibrugarh Bar Association too observed 'Satyagrah' during the day and the AASU extended its support to the lawyers.

Meanwhile, Dibrugarh Deputy Commissioner Pallab Gopal Jha said at a press conference that 27 persons have been arrested in the district.

"We are collecting CCTV footage for arresting the culprits. Chabua is among the worst-affected places," he added.

The state witnessed violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which fast-tracks naturalisation for non-Muslim minority refugees who faced religious persecution in Bangladesh -- which borders a number of Northeast states -- and two other Muslim-majority nations.

At least five people died during the course of the protests. 

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