Normal life was stalled in several districts and ethnic-community pockets in Assam on Friday due to a 12-hour state "bandh" called by the Coordination Committee of the Tribal Organisations of Assam (CCTOA) against a bill to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities. The districts affected by the "bandh" included Morigaon, the BTAD districts of Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa and Chirang and Dima Hasao. In Morigaon district, hundreds of "bandh" supporters blocked National Highway-37 by burning tyres and laying tree trunks, disrupting the road traffic between lower and upper Assam for some hours, the police said. The police and security forces rushed to the spot, arrested over 30 picketers and brought the situation under control.
In Kokrajhar district, the "bandh" supporters burnt tyres at different places, including at Athiabari, Salakati, Fakiragram and Kokrajhar towns. There were reports of stones hurled at trucks, causing damage to one of the vehicles. A number of trucks were stranded on NH-36 at Doboka, the police said. The protesters also attempted to block the movement of the Avadh-Assam Express by blocking the railway tracks at Sarupathar in Golaghat district, before they were removed and the train moved onwards, they added.
Normal life came to a halt in all the bandh-hit districts with shops and business establishments, educational institutions, banks, financial institutions remaining closed, while vehicles stayed off the roads, the police said. The attendance in government offices was thin due to the absence of public transports in the bandh-hit areas, they added. Essential services like medical, water, milk, electricity were exempted from the purview of the "bandh". Security arrangements were beefed up in view of the "bandh" in Assam, which is also witnessing massive statewide protests over the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
The protesters strongly criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government's move to pass the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Amendment Bill, 2019, following a cabinet decision after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by the Lok Sabha. The CCTOA feared that the Scheduled Tribes Amendment Bill would eliminate the "genuine tribal people" of the state by enlisting the six ethnic groups of Assam as ST. The six ethnic communities proposed to be included in the ST category are Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom, Chutia, Moran, Matak and the tea tribes of Assam who form a sizeable chunk of the population of the state.
(With inputs from agencies.)