Protests against bill continue in Assam

GUWAHATI: Protests over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill continued in Assam Thursday with students, lawyers and doctors raising their voice against the legislation across the state. The bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha two days ago, seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.
With ‘gamosas’ (Assamese scarf of honour) in hand, people observed ‘sankalpa divas’ in front of the state secretariat here, asserting that the bill threatened the existence of Assamese people. They warned that the “prime minister and his cabinet colleagues will be stopped from entering the state” if their interests were harmed.
At Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, junior doctors Thursday wore black badges to work, while members of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee’s legal department raised slogans against the government.
Shouts of ‘Joi Ai Asom’ (glory to mother Assam) rend the air as agitators, holding gamosas, took oath that they will “protect the interests of indigenous people”.
Students of the Gauhati University and several colleges Thursday joined other higher educational institutes across Assam to protest the controversial bill, with one student body even threatening to take steps like self-immolation if it is not withdrawn. Students of Cotton and Dibrugarh Universities and over 15 colleges decided on Wednesday to boycott their classes indefinitely to protest against the passage of the citizenship bill in the Lok Sabha.
At several educational institutes in Guwahati, students boycotted their classes to take to the streets for a protest march to the state capital Dispur, but their attempt was thwarted by security forces. Similar protests were also observed by students in other parts of the state with some of them regretting that they were forced to come out of their classrooms as the government failed to ensure their protection.
Over the past two days, agitators across the North East, including Assam, have blocked thoroughfares and rail tracks, seeking revocation of the bill.
The protesters clashed with the police, gheraoed Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s house at his native place in Dibrugarh and damaged vehicles.
An 11-hour shutdown was called in Assam on Tuesday by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), and supported by over a hundred organisations, bringing life to a standstill in Assam.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which withdrew support to the BJP-led government in Assam on Monday, also extended its support to the bandh. Three AGP ministers also resigned on Wednesday from the Assam Cabinet, seeking fresh elections in the state. (PTI)

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