Fresh protests have erupted in Assam over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) that was passed by the Lok Sabha and was tabled in the Rajya Sabha today. On Tuesday, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) had called for an 11-hour ‘bandh’ which saw thousands coming out in agitation against the Bill.
On Wednesday, as protestors took to the streets in a new spirit, large parts of the North East simmered in agitation. Though no organisation had called for a bandh on Wednesday, the people of Assam came out in large numbers in Jorhat, Golaghat, Dibrugarh, Bongaigon, Nagaon and Sonitpur among several other districts to raise their voice against the Centre’s decision of making the CAB a law.
Zamser Ali, senior journalist with Sabrang India who is stationed in Assam, reports that the agitation in Assam yesterday stretched into the wee hours of the night. Last night at around 11 PM, a gathering of around 20,000 people mobilized to protest against the bill. On Wednesday, a new wave of protests began at around 7 AM starting at Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Jorhat spreading to the innermost interiors of the state. There has been no area in Assam where people haven’t joined in the protest against CAB.
The protests today have been unorganized and not called for by any union or political party. The situation at the moment is sensitive and even a small gathering of people is gaining momentum becoming a reflection of their anger against the CAB that is a looming threat on their identity. One of the biggest protests was witnessed at Cotton University and Handique Girls’ College (the first women’s college in Assam) with around 20,000 students marching to Ganeshguri near the Assam Secretariat.
The police resorted to lathi charge and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the protestors grievously injuring several students. Our journalist who was also a victim of tear gas shelling reported that the shelling was so intense that nothing was visible and protestors had to retreat to save themselves from the same. They re-grouped a few kilometers away from Ganeshguri where they had retreated to only begin the agitation again by shouting anti-CAB slogans for an hour. As things calmed down, they resumed their march and reached the Assam Secretariat with their agitation once again.
Last night, female police officials had been roped in to control women protestors and had also assaulted them during the ongoing protests. In the protests on Wednesday, no female police officials were present in the units deployed and the male police was seen trying to push back women protestors. One of the policemen grievously injured a female student. In Bokul, Dibrugarh, a woman has allegedly lost her life due to police firing that was done to control the protestors. Another woman was injured in the lathi charge after the police personnel allegedly hit her on her head. She is suspected to have succumbed to her injuries.
The police have also not been given orders to peacefully tackle the mob and they’re arbitrarily attacking protestors knowing they will be awarded impunity for the same.
No political party, leaders or unions have forth either to express solidarity or to pacify the raging mob. Even unions like the AASU and Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) who were part of the agitation yesterday, have distanced themselves from the protests today, making the people the face of the agitation. Even Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader Akhil Gogoi had yesterday announced that the battle now was the people’s to take further.
A curfew has been imposed in Dibrugarh and as the protests are turning critical, two army columns have been deployed in Tripura and Assam in Kanchanpur and Dhalai respectively. A third column has been requisitioned by the Bongaigon Deputy Commissioner in Assam. News reports coming in from different sources say that army deployed in Dibrugarh has been called back as the situation calmed down. Yesterday, section 144 was imposed in Assam and an internet ban was imposed in Tripura which was to last 48 hours.
Traffic in the state has come to a standstill and protests are still continuing even with the brutal measures of the state government to quell the agitation by bringing in the Army and resorting to violence against protestors.
The CAB is currently under debate in the Rajya Sabha with parties opposing it questioning the BJP government about the religious classification peg and why it has singled out some communities from the countries it has mentioned in the Bill. The Bill is seen not only as a tool to increase BJP’s vote bank but to intrinsically change the secular demography of India. Assam, that is already reeling under the aftermath of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is now facing another identity crisis in the name of the CAB.
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