A torchlight procession to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Guwahati (File)
Naga Students' Federation has called for a 6-hour shutdown Saturday in Nagaland to protest against the newly-enacted citizenship law. Meanwhile, curfew has been relaxed today in Assam's Guwahati and Meghalaya's Shillong after improved conditions, PTI reported.
Violent protests broke out in the North-East states and spread to West Bengal, Delhi and parts of south India, Friday, with police resorting to lathicharge and tear gas shells to contain protesters. While two people were killed in Assam, at least 25 students were injured in protests outside Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia University. The university has postponed the exams scheduled for today.
In its first remarks on the issue, the Trump administration urged India to “protect the rights of its religious minorities” in keeping with its “Constitution and democratic values”. The US and the UK have also issued travel advisories asking their citizens to "exercise caution" while visiting the North-East in the wake of the protests. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, meanwhile, said they are “concerned” that the law is “fundamentally discriminatory in nature” and appear to “undermine the commitment to equality”
The Citizenship law will grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014. It leaves out Muslims.
The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Tuesday and in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Late on Thursday, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Bill even as violent protests erupted in Assam. Curfew has been imposed at several places in Assam, while the Army has carried out flag marches in many districts to control protests and violence.
The protests also spilt over to neighbouring Meghalaya after vehicles were vandalised and set ablaze in Police Bazaar and Iew Duh areas, resulting in the imposition of curfew in all neighbourhoods that include areas under Sadar PS and Lumdiengjri PS. Northeastern states fear the law will lead to legitimizing of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and change the demographics of the region.
Amid the shutdown in North-East, Home Minister Amit Shah has cancelled his visit to Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was scheduled to hold an annual bilateral summit meeting with PM Narendra Modi in Guwahati, has deferred his visit. Bangladesh also protested after the convoy of its envoy was attacked, and two signposts of the Bangladesh Assistant High Commission were vandalised. Bangladesh's Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan have also cancelled their visit to India
About a dozen petitioners, including Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), moved the Supreme Court questioning the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
Amid the heavy protests, a source in the government had admitted that there could have been an error of judgment in weighing the possibilities of violent protests on the streets against the Bill. “There could have been an error of judgment (about the responses). We must have made a mistake in assessing the situation. Or there could be a communication gap,” said a source. Another BPJ source said, “This scale of violent response was not anticipated.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Assam, and assured people that their identity and culture would be protected. He also accused the Congress and its allies of spreading confusion over the Bill’s provisions and fanning the flames in the North-East. Taking to Twitter, Modi posted: “I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB. I want to assure them — no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.”