ON Monday, as Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, states in the North-East, except Nagaland, announced a shutdown against it on Tuesday, following a call by the North-East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of influential students’ bodies of the region.
Samuel Jyrwa, chairman of the NESO, told The Indian Express that the shutdown will be 11-hour long, from 5 am to 4 pm. He said the protest was against the “imposition” of the CAB on the Northeast which, he said, would open the floodgates for “illegal Bangladeshis” and signified a “dishonouring of the demands of the people of the Northeast”. Follow LIVE updates on North-East bandh
Jyrwa said Nagaland was exempt from the shutdown call because of the ongoing annual Hornbill Festival which sees a large tourist footfall from across the world. The Manipur government, meanwhile, announced a holiday Tuesday since the CAB has proposed an inner land permit system for the state.
In the face of protests, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal tweeted on Monday, “It is important to realise that the #CitizenshipAmendmentBill is for the whole of India and not only for Assam. But a section has maligned the image of the state by spreading misinformation that only Assam will have to again bear the burden of illegal immigrants.”
“It’s been 34 years since the #AssamAccord was signed. Since then, numerous governments came and went, who only indulged in power-grabbing for themselves. None of them were committed to fight for the people of Assam,” he wrote in his tweet.
In Tripura, strike call against CAB by indigenous parties including Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Tripura (IPFT), which is part of the ruling BJP-led coalition government, virtually crippled public movement for most parts of Monday. IPFT and Joint Movement Against CAB, a platform of three indigenous political parties and tribal social organisations, said granting citizenship to people from foreign nations in the state would create an identity crisis for tribals in the state. “If CAB is implemented, people from Bangladesh will throw us in further identity crisis,” IPFT spokesperson Mangal Debbarma said.
Both Maharaja Bir Bikram University, Tripura’s only state university and Tripura Central University postponed all examinations on Monday in view of the strike calls. Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) suspended movements of six trains and partially suspended few others in Tripura.
Manipur declared a holiday on Tuesday to celebrate the announcement made by Shah that the state would be brought under the purview of the Inner Line Permit system (ILP). “Our central leaders have kept their promise. This is a victory of the people of Manipur who have been struggling for a long time for this dream to come true and also salute Robinhood who died during ILP protest in the state,” said Chief Minister N Biren Singh in a hurriedly convened press conference after the announcement made by Amit Shah.
However, Laishram Athouba Meitei, President in-charge of the All Manipur Students’ Union, said the body will stand by NESO’s demand for not implementing CAB in the Northeast region and appealed to the people to effectively enforce the shutdown. Samujjal Bhattacharya, advisor, NESO, told The Indian Express, “They are trying to divide us. Although, northeast is seven states, but we are mentally and emotionally one. There will be a complete Northeast shutdown tomorrow. This CAB has to go one day or the other.”
Sporadic protests continued across Assam, including Guwahati, on Monday. Students and activists held demonstrations, burnt tyres, and held protest marches. They also stage protests in several higher educational institutes. Exams in Guwahati and Dibrugarh Universities scheduled for Tuesday have been postponed.
Also, as a result of a 12-hour shutdown call by All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU) and All Assam Chutia Students’ Union, several parts of Assam remained shut on Monday, affecting normal life.
The All Moran Students Union had called for a 48-hour strike in Assam from Monday and its president Arunjyoti Moran said, “Our demands are three-fold: first, we totally oppose the CAB, second, we demand the granting of Scheduled Tribe status as promised to six communities and third, all provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985 be immediately implemented.”
The CAB proposes to amend 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 – applying for Indian citizenship.
The CAB is a contentious issue in Northeast India with influential socio-political groups and political parties holding it as a threat to the interests of the indigenous communities of the region. There have been a series of protests, including the ongoing one, against the CAB in the Northeast.
The CAB, in its current form, says “nothing in this section shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inter Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873”.
(With inputs from DEBRAJ DEB in AGARTALA and JIMMY LEIVON in IMPHAL)