Students across Assam held separate protests on Sunday against the Narendra Modi-led government’s decision to introduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill during the Winter Session of Parliament. The government has listed the Bill in its items of business for the session.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend a 1955 law 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. It had been passed in the previous Lok Sabha in January but was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha. The bill lapsed after the term of the Lok Sabha ended in May, but was not introduced in the Budget Session in July.
The All Assam Students’ Union criticised Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for not opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, reported The Telegraph. “The chief ministers of neighbouring states like Meghalaya and Nagaland oppose the bill though these states enjoy special status. But the Assam chief minister is silent,” said AASU General Secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had urged the Centre to withhold the bill in its current form. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had said the bill will change the demography of the North East.
The students’ union leaders will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on Tuesday to convey their opposition to the bill. Shah is holding meetings with political and non-political organisations from the North East before tabling the bill in Parliament. On Friday and Saturday, Shah held discussions with politicians, student groups, and civil society bodies from Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh on the proposed legislation. Shah held the first of such meetings after protests were organised across the North East on November 18.
Lurinjyoti Gogoi said the bill violates the secular character of the Constitution and the Assam Accord. “If the Centre is thinking that it will be able to put the burden of illegal foreigners on us through the bill while offering implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord then it is wrong,” he added. “We will not accept the bill.”
AASU’s Duliajan unit took out a bike rally while students of Dibrugarh University said they would not allow political leaders who support the bill to enter the university.
Students of Cotton University protested in front of the head office of the AGP at Ambari to protest against the “indirect support” of the party to the bill. They burnt effigies of party president Atul Bora and other AGP leaders. “Through this protest we are warning the AGP leaders to be with the people of Assam. Otherwise, the people will give them a fitting reply,” said a protester. They also met Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora and Opposition leader Debabrata Saikia.
On Saturday, nearly 1,500 students of Cotton University held a torchlight procession. Students of other colleges also joined the march.
“This is the time to show the government the power of students in a democracy,” Hirakjyoti Bora, a student of Cotton University, told Assam Tribune. “For this, we have to intensify our protest till the bill is scrapped. The students of our university have been vehemently opposing the Bill all along.”