60 organisations have jointly called for an Assam Bandh on October 23 in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. On Tuesday the Joint Parliamentary Committee — led by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal — is supposed to make a final decision on the Bill, which has created severe uproar in Assam, ever since it was tabled in the Lok Sabha.
At the forefront of the Bandh is peasant leader Akhil Gogoi’s Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, along with Asom Jatiyadabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), All Assam Minority Students Union (AMMSU), and several other organisations. While Assam’s BJP government is opposing the Bandh and its ministers have asked its employees to carry on work as usual, Opposition Congress has lent its support to the Bandh, slated from 5 am to 5 pm.
In a video message, KMSS’s Gogoi appealed to the public to follow the bandh so as to protect their identity, language and culture. He said, “We are calling this bandh because tomorrow is when the JPC will take a decision on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016,” adding that exams, newspapers, medical facilities and availability of milk and water will not be affected. He also requested private vehicle owners not to use their cars.
Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, addressing local reporters in Guwahati today, that “following such a bandh will amount to contempt of court.”
The BJP government is also opposing the November 17 rally organised by 26 Bengali organisations in support of the Bill. “We are also requesting them not to hold the November 17 rally as it might lead to a serious law and order problem,” said Sarma. Meanwhile, BJP coalition partner AGP — which has been exempted from the Bandh by the organisations — will hold a protest rally against the Bill on Tuesday. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha and aims to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to allow Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to apply for Indian citizenship.