Deserted roads, closed educational institutions and banks, markets and vehicles set on fire, huge processions raising slogans against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and clashes brought life in parts of Northeast to a grinding halt in wake of the 11-hour bandh call by North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of influential students’ bodies of the region.
With the contentious bill, which seeks to give citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, set to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Guwahati, Jorhat, Pathshala, Dibrugarh, Morigaon and Lakhimpur in Assam simmered with protests, even resulting in clashes between police and agitators.
Police had to resort to lathicharge in Hatigaon, Dispur and Ganeshguri areas in Guwahati where protesters resorted to stone-pelting and burnt tyres and two-wheelers. The North-East Frontier Railway headquarters in Malingaon was also gheraoed by protesters. However, the strike had little impact in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley.
“The bandh has been 100 per cent successful because everyone knows that this Bill affects the Northeast. Even the ILP areas and Sixth Schedule areas, which have been exempted from CAB, participated in the bandh. It’s not like we want to call a bandh and disrupt normal life. We have been compelled to take this step,” said Lurinjyoti Gogoi, All Assam Students’ Union, General Secretary.
Exams at Guwahati University and Dibrugarh University were postponed due to the bandh. “Being a Bengali, I am protesting against the CAB. It’s unconstitutional and will break the social fabric of the society,” said Kalyan Sengupta, a student of Dibrugarh University.
Justifying the protests, Samuel Jyrwa, chairman of the NESO, told The Indian Express that the agitation 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”.
The revised bill exempts the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and almost the whole of Meghalaya, and parts of Assam and Tripura.
In Tripura, two simultaneous protests by the Twipra Students Federation (TSF) and Joint Movement Against CAB, a platform of three indigenous political parties and tribal social organisations, virtually crippled public movement for most parts of Tuesday. In view of the vociferous protests, the state government shut down SMS and mobile internet services for the next 48 hours.
Protesters clashed with police officials at Dewanbazaar in Sipahijala district, Kanchanpur in North Tripura district and Manu of Dhalai district, which was the worst affected due to the agitation. Dhalai Superintendent of Police Kishor Debbarma told indianexpress.com that officials had to resort to lathicharge and even fired in the air to bring the situation under control. However, he claimed no one was injured in the firing.
At Anandabazaar village in Kanchanpur sub-division, protesters set two small vehicles on fire and damaged nearly 25 shops. An official from Tripura Police Headquarters said 1721 protesters were detained from different parts of Tripura till latest reports.
However, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb claimed the strike against the Citizenship Bill, which was cleared by the Lok Sabha on Monday, didn’t have any impact in Tripura.
“Tripura has not been affected due to the strikes against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The state is moving towards development. A misconception is being spread regarding the bill in the northeast. No part of the northeast will be affected by this bill. Autonomous District Council areas are exempted from this legislation. So, what is the point of this bandh?” Deb asked.
Unlike Assam and Tripura, the bandh went off peacefully in Manipur and no large scale agitations were reported. The shutdown was supported by the All Manipur Student’s Union (AMSU), Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong (TKS) and All Naga Students’ Association Manipur.
All business establishments, educational institutes remained closed and public transportation services also stayed off roads. Government offices also remained closed as the state had declared a holiday to celebrate Manipur’s inclusion in the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system. The shutdown also affected the Indo-Myanmar border trade in Moreh town as agitators enforced road blockade.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) December 10, 2019
Nagaland was exempt from the shutdown call because of the ongoing annual Hornbill Festival which sees a large tourist footfall from across the world.
In photos | Agitators clash with security forces in Assam
Educational institutions, banks, commercial establishments and markets were closed while public and private vehicles were off the roads in most places of Arunachal Pradesh in response to the strike called by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union.
In Meghalaya’s Shillong, incidents of tyre burning and vandalisation of vehicles were reported, as protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails at a police vehicle damaging it in Mawlai area, East Khasi Hills district deputy commissioner M W Nongbri told PTI.