On January 8, the Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, seeking to provide non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan with Indian citizenship. According to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, this will help the religious minorities of persecuted Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis to get Indian citizenship. Following six years of residency in India, they can get permanent citizenship in the country.
However, after the bill was passed, widespread protests have been held across Assam and various parts of north-east India.
Protest by All Assam Students Union (AASU)
An 11-hour Assam bandh was called on January 8 by the All Assam Students Union (AASU), along with 30 more indigenous organizations. Since 5 AM in the morning, various parts of the state have been subject to stone pelting, occasional lathi charges and tyre burning.
“We are protesting for good reasons. We will not be minorities in our own state. The influx of these people will not only pave way for us to become minorities in our state, but will also have a huge impact on the language, culture and heritage of the state. They do not belong here,” said Lurinjyoti Gogoi, General Secretary of All Assam Students Union, in conversation with The Logical Indian
“The amendment of the bill goes against what we were promised by the government. That is what makes us so angry. We will not allow the influx of people who might make us minorities in the state to be made legal. The entire state will be affected by these people. For years now, we have been trying to secure our indigenous rights. All we are asking for is a state free of illegal immigrants. We are protesting for what is rightfully ours and we will not stop protesting until the bill is withdrawn. We will take our stand and keep protesting until we are taken seriously. The government cannot turn a blind eye to our demands,” said Gogoi.
Protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) bill, nude protests were staged by peasants and youths of Assam in Delhi and Assam’s Tinsukia. Taking everyone by surprise, several members of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and other organizations allied to it, protested naked outside the parliament.
This incident brought back memories of the protests that were held in 2004 in Imphal when women went naked, carrying banners with ‘Indian Army Rape Us’ painted on them, following the brutal rape and murder of Manipur’s Thangjam Manorama.
Protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, people stripped naked and shouted out slogans like ‘Bangladeshis go back’ and ‘Narendra Modi murdabad’. They carried banners demanding the repeal of the bill.
However, police apprehended them after a few minutes of protests. They were taken to the Parliament Street police station, but were released after a while. Former PCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita and other Congress MPs from Assam also protested.
Being the epicentre of the present opposition to the bill, Assam is still watching the ongoing protest. An important reason is that this bill goes against what is mentioned in the Assam Accord’s clause 6: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”