With protests across Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill continuing to intensify, state Chief Secretary Alok Kumar Saturday said the “situation is challenging” and appealed for “peaceful and democratic” protests.
Kumar made the remarks at a press conference along with Additional Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, DGP Kuladhar Saikia and IGP (Special Branch) Hiren Nath in Guwahati Saturday, just days after the BJP district unit president of Tinsukia district, Lakheswar Moran was assaulted by protesters. “The situation is peaceful but challenging. On a scale from one to ten, it is slowly progressing,” said Kumar. He also appealed for “peaceful and dignified” and asked if the situation was progressing for “the worse or the better”, Kumar said, “That is for you to decide.”
According to Kumar, the state and Centre have been advised about an imminent “law and order” situation if the Bill is pushed. “Yes, in various meetings and otherwise. We had expressed views and opinions (about law and order).” He said that while everyone had the right to protest democratically, there were “deviations” reported, including demonstrators holding nude protests.
For over a month now, the BJP government in Assam has faced stiff opposition over the Bill which has become a contentious issue across the North East.
Assam DGP Saikia said the involvement of banned outfits engineering the current spate of unrest, can be determined only after investigation and analysis. His comments come a day after Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Friday told reporters that the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) has played a role in the ongoing protests against the Bill.
Sarma had also hinted that the government was “aware which journalists were talking to which organisations”. When Saikia was asked for a response on Sarma’s remarks, he said, “I don’t believe in surveillance of the media.”
Saikia said that in two violent protests in Assam’s Tinsukia district, where a BJP office-bearer was publicly thrashed, and in Nalbari district, where AASU members were attacked, police have arrested five and nine persons.
He cautioned against the filing of multiple FIRs and counter-FIRs by people over “frivolous” text, audio or video clips that have emerged on social media recently. He said that such FIRs often derail other important law and order responsibilities of the police.
The contentious Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 by relaxing the eligibility rules for an immigrant — belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan — in getting Indian citizenship.
The political opposition, powerful groups and large sections of society in Assam have reiterated that the Bill is a “threat” to indigenous communities in the region because, they say, it violates the Assam Accord according to which, any person who came into Assam after midnight of March 24, 1971, will be identified as a foreigner.