Citizenship (Amendment) Bill protests: Curfew in Assam, Army on standby
Late last evening, the Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, amid widespread protests in the Northeast. Yesterday, thousands of people took to streets to protest against the Bill, which will make it easier for persecuted minorities from neighboring countries to get Indian citizenship. As the situation worsened with each passing hour, an indefinite curfew was imposed in Guwahati and Army put on standby.
While CAB brings a major relief to troubled Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Parsis, and Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Northeast residents are worried about the area's demography. Most parts of Northeastern states have been left out from CAB's ambit, but a large part of Assam comes under its purview. Assamese fear they might become a minority, and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants might flood the state.
Now, Assam has been on a boil since the Bill made it to headlines, but things took a deadly turn yesterday. The series of events served as a redux for the students' union protest, which lasted for six years, and ended after Assam Accord was signed in 1985. This time too, people clashed with security agencies. To disperse them, police fired tear gas.
Yesterday, curfew was imposed in Guwahati, which was later extended to Dibrugarh district. Mobile internet services were also suspended in 10 districts of the state. Assam Police Additional Director General (Law and Order), Mukesh Agrawal, said the restrictions will be lifted after studying the on-ground situation. Notably, troops were also airlifted from Jammu and Kashmir and sent to Northeast to control the situation.
The steep escalation in violence caught the BJP-led state government by surprise and showed they weren't prepared. Just a day before, officials had claimed they were on top of the situation. In the evening, two columns of Army were deployed to Guwahati. The Centre also issued an advisory to private TV channels, asking them to not air content which could increase tensions.
The protests even affected Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, as he was stuck at the state capital's airport. But, his security detail managed to take him to his house. In fact, MPs of the ruling BJP confirmed that the situation in Assam was tense and that people were "confused". However, they claimed this wasn't the way to protest.
Pallab Lochan Das, who represents Tezpur, said fake news is a problem. "The wrong news being circulated is that there will be lakhs coming to stay here, and that border fences have been broken for people from Bangladesh. People have not been told about the cut-off date," he told IE. Similarly, MP Queen Oja said the situation is bad and she "doesn't know about tomorrow".
The situation remained grim in Tripura too. The strike called by the Joint Movement Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (JMACAB), a union of three tribal parties, entered its third day. According to Tripura Additional DGP Rajiv Singh, skirmishes were reported from Dhalai, Khowai, and Sipahijala districts, forcing police to take to lathi-charge. Meanwhile, CM Biplab Deb urged people to maintain peace.