Ground Report: Protests Against CAB Erupt In Parts Of Northeast Amid Fear Of ‘Outsiders’ Swamping Region
CAB seeks to grant citizenship to religious minorities from three Muslim-majority countries in India’s neighbourhood — Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But natives fear the resultant flood of migrants from these nations could alter the demographics of the northeast.
The 11-hour long Northeast bandh announced by North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella students’ body, came to end at 4 pm on Tuesday, yet protests continued across several parts of the Northeast till late evening.
Parts of Upper Assam still remain tense, and several protests are up for the day, as the debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) continues in Rajya Sabha.
The bandh was called across Northeast, except Nagaland, owing to the ongoing Hornbill Festival. It protested against CAB which was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday, a little past midnight after the house voted in favour of the Bill with 311 ayes of the total present strength of 391 MPs.
CAB seeks to grants citizenship to religious minorities from three Muslim-majority countries in India’s neighbourhood, that is, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The bandh started at 5 am and ended at 4 pm. While the early hours started on a quiet note, as the day started, instances of massive protests came to light. Across Guwahati, members of NESO and students took to the streets against the Bill, protesting on roads and highways.
There were many reported incidents of tyre burning across the northeastern region. Also, several instances of stone-pelting were reported.
Schools, colleges and educational institutes and most shops and business establishments remained closed.
Two-wheelers were set on fire and cars smashed across the Northeast. There were several episodes of clashes between civilians and security officials as well.
According to reports, in Assam, the convoy of state BJP president Ranjan Kumar Das and Morigaon MLA Ramakanta Dewri were attacked in the Six Mile area of Guwahati. The irked mob cheered as the MLAs’ convoy rushed away and turned back from the spot of the attack.
The angry crowd of protesters was eventually disbursed after security officials intervened.
Also, an effigy of Guwahati MP Queen Ojha was burnt and stomped upon outside her residence in the city.
Despite the protest officially ending at 4 pm, there were cases of tyre burning and road blockade from different parts of Guwahati. In parts of Upper Assam, the protests had already turned violent a day prior to the NESO bandh with reports of stone pelting at civilian vehicles and security forces’ vehicles.
Train services were also affected from Monday across the region. Northeast Frontier Railway issued notification on the trains which were cancelled or delayed due to rail line blockades.
In Tripura as well, train services were hampered due to the ongoing protests.
Also, amidst the protests, Home Department of Tripura notified a 48-hours ban on SMS, mobile internet and data services of all mobile service providers under the provision of Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 effective from 2 pm on Tuesday.
Protesters raised slogans against chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb calling him a Bangladeshi.
In Nagaland, apex students body Nagaland Students Federation (NSF) staged a peaceful sit-in protest.
Meanwhile in Meghalaya, along with the objection against CAB, protesters brought to fore their demand for Inner Line Permit (ILP) which is in place in several states across the region.
Effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah, Tura MP Agatha Sangma and state Governor Tathagata Roy was burnt.
All the states of the region saw burning protests as hundreds took to the streets against CAB. Including Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland where ILP is implemented.
The protests showed the displeasure of people against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which seeks to amend the 1955 Citizenship Act by granting citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Jains who faced religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
In the Northeast, identity plays a huge part. Many in this part of the country believe that the implementation of the CAB will burden the region with ‘outsiders’ and the identity and culture of the locals/indigenous people will get diluted.
Also, the special status which the states enjoy will be exploited by the ‘outsiders’. Tripura is put forth as one such exemplar where the indigenous people are now a minority.
The protest came on a rather iconic day as it coincided with Shahid Diwas (Martyrs Day), which takes place every year in Assam to commemorate the 855 people who lost their lives during the six-year-long Assam agitation against illegal immigrants.
Hundreds took to the streets and indulged in sloganeering against the BJP government.
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