Assam CM shown black flags as protests against Citizenship Bill continue
Black flags were waved at Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in his constituency Majuli on Monday and RTI activist Akhil Gogoi went on a 24-hour hunger strike on the first day of Assamese Magh or Bhogali Bihu festivities as agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill continued.
Sonowal was shown black flags for the second consecutive day by members of Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and several other local organisations in Majuli, when he arrived there by helicopter to participate in an official function.
The protestors shouted slogans against the chief minister, the centre and state governments and demanded withdrawal of the controversial Bill.
Police took several protestors into custody and dispersed the others.
On Sunday too, Sonowal was shown black flags by the AJYCP and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) protestors outside the Kaziranga University where he had gone to participate in its convocation.
The bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha last week, provides for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.
Meanwhile, KMSS founder Akhil Gogoi, along with leaders of the 70 organisations protesting the Bill, began a hunger strike from 2 pm Monday at Chachal area here. They were joined by AGP leader Keshav Mahanta, who and recently resigned as minister, and former BJP spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora, who quit the party in protest against the Bill.
Gogoi along with Assamese litterateur Hiren Gohain and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta were earlier slapped with sedition charge for remarks against the Bill. The three later got bail from the Guwahati High Court.
Gogoi said he is on a hunger strike to make people aware of the "unconstitutional" Bill so that the culture and identity of the Assamese were protected.
He thanked the AGP for pulling out of the state government and urged all political parties and different organisations to step up the campaign against the proposed legislation and create a situation where the BJP and the RSS cannot table the Bill in the Rajya Sabha between January 31 and February 11.
''The Congress has a very important and positive role to play in this regard and they must go all out to get the Bill scrapped or else history will not forgive the party,'' Gogoi said.
All political parties of the state should reach out to the opposition parties across the country and unite them against the Bill to save the secular principles of the constitution and to save Assam and the northeast from foreigners, he said.
He also urged all people to burn the copies of the Bill in the 'Meji" (the hay structure which is set ablaze on the second day of Bihu) and hang the 'Gamosa' symbolising the Assamese identity.
The AGP leader said all Assamese, irrespective of which organisation they belong to, must stay united and prove that ''we are Assamese first and if we all stay united, the Bill cannot be passed (in the Rajya Sabha)''.
Earlier in the day, the AGP announced to launch an agitation against the Bill by taking out a protest rally on January 18 and all its 14 MLAs will sit on dharna on January 24.
Meanwhile, students of Guwahati University and Handique College here have banned entry of all BJP leaders in their campuses.
In Sibsagar district, journalists held a dharna against the Bill on Monday at Nazira where Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia and several other prominent citizens also joined the protest.
Students also came out to protest against the proposed legislation in Sibsagar town.
In Baksa district's Barama town, non-Bodo organisations blocked National Highway 31 demanding immediate withdrawal of the Bill and granting Scheduled Tribe status to the non-Bodos.
Following the passage of the Bill in Loka Sabha last week, members of the Srimanta Sankardeva Sangha, the largest Vaishnav organisation of the state, are divided over the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Sangha's annual session in Morigaon from February 6 to 9.
Its chairman has publicly said that Modi should not be invited while its general secretary maintained an opposite view.
Modi had attended the Sangha's session at Dergaon last year and has been invited this year too, but the Prime Minister's Office is yet to confirm his participation.