Assam bandh begins amid clashes and government warning

Assam bandh begins amid clashes and government warning

Deserted streets of Guwahati on Tuesday morning, during Assam bandh. Picture by Manash Das/ Guwahati

The 12-hour Assam bandh called against NDA’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, began on Tuesday morning amid clashes between security forces and the bandh supporters and warning by the state government. 

The BJP-led government has asked its employees to attend duties and asked traders to open their establishments stating that bandh had been declared unconstitutional by Gauhati high court. All heads of the districts have been asked to submit attendance records at 11 am.

The state government have also warned traders that their trade licences would be cancelled if they kept their shops and organisations shut and thereby support the bandh. But traders said they were left with no option but to remain shut fearing violence. 

The bandh supporters questioned BJP's "dictates" against the bandh reminding the ruling party that it had also resorted to similar bandh in 2012 and 2013 when it was in the opposition. 

Several bandh supporters were detained, including in Guwahati as they staged blockades and shouted slogans against BJP and its move to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. 

At least 50 organisations have called the bandh from 5 am to protest 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 a minority.    

"The bandh is complete. Schools and colleges are closed, shops are also shut," said RTI activist and leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Akhil Gogoi, leading the agitation.

Asom Gana Parishad, an ally of the BJP government, too is organizing a protest rally here today 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 AGP wants that the foreigner issue in Asaam 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 RSS wants to give citizenship based on religion to strengthen their Hindu vote bank and destroy culture, language and identity of the indigenous communities,” Akhil said on Monday.

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