Protests over the Citizenship Bill erupted at various places in Assam on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government was working to ensure the proposed legislation gets Parliament nod.
The agitators burnt effigies of Modi in Lower Assam and Dibrugarh, even as Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal assured the people that he would protect the interests of the state.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant nationality to people belonging to minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of their residence in India.
Several indigenous organisations in the state have been opposing the bill as they believe it would harm their cultural identity.
The PM, after flagging off the BJP’s Lok Sabha poll campaign in the northeast, said Friday that the bill was “not for the benefit of anyone but a penance against the injustice and many wrongs done in the past”.
Around 70 organisations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), took out protest rallies in the state capital in the morning. The KMSS members had plans to march to the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) headquarters here to ask the party to break off its alliance with the BJP, but the police prevented them from doing so, its leader Akhil Gogoi Gogoi told reporters.
“We took out the rally to urge the people to come out of their homes and protest against the prime minister’s announcement. The bill will put the identity of the indigenous people at stake. “We cannot tolerate a leader coming from Delhi and threatening our very existence while the chief minister and other BJP leaders applaud him,” Gogoi said.
Meanwhile, Sonowal on Saturday asked the people to keep calm as the state government would never do anything to harm their interests. “I am the chief minister of Assam and I have been entrusted with the duty of protecting the interest of the people of both Brahmaputra and Barak Valley. People should not doubt the government’s intention,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
He said he would go all out to secure the identity of its people. “We are committed to fulfill our responsibilities with sincerity. I will go all out to ensure that ‘Jati-Mati-Bheti and Krishti’ (community, land, homeland and cultural identity) are not affected,” he added.