Two officers of the Indian Administrative Services wrote to the Centre on Saturday and claimed they were forcibly stopped from attending the Republic Day celebrations in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl.
NGO Coordination Committee, protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, had called for a boycott of the celebrations. The panel is an umbrella group of civil society and student organisations. Due to the boycott call, only ministers, MLAs and other top government officials attended the function, where Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan was forced to address an almost empty venue.
Registrar of Cooperative Societies Bhupesh Chaudhury said what had happened in Mizoram “was unthinkable in a free country”. Chaudhary claimed that members of the NGO Coordination Committee had stopped him as well as another officer at both the entrance gates and told not to attend the Republic Day function. The officers were allegedly also asked to return to their quarters “before any untoward accident happens”.
According to Chaudhary, the NGO’s office bearers claimed to have reached an agreement with the state government allowing only secretaries and above-ranked officers to attend the function. “After waiting for an hour outside the venue and anticipating a law and order situation, we were forced to return with deep pain and anguish,” he wrote.
Additional Chief Electoral Officer Krishna Mohan Uppu, in a separate letter, wrote that he had been forcibly prevented from entering the ground. “None of the executive magistrates and police personnel posted on duty at the venue did anything to control the representatives of the NGO who were preventing us from entering the venue,” he said.
Uppu said he was discharging his duty and responsibility, in his capacity as a public servant as well as a citizen, to attend the function.
“While it is the duty of the government to ensure that every citizen of India is able to celebrate the Republic Day with freedom and fervour, incidents like this show that we have failed in the most basic of our duties,” Choudhury wrote.
Both officers urged the government to conduct an inquiry and take action against those who had publicly boycotted the Republic Day celebrations across the state and those who had forcefully prevented civil servants from attending the function in Aizawl.
People had protested against the bill at several Republic Day venues in the state on Saturday. However, no incidences of violence were reported.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years. Those who do not possess required documents are also eligible for citizenship.