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Protests over Citizenship Bill hit nation

New Delhi/Guwahati/Agartala/Itanagar: The national capital and many other parts of the country Tuesday witnessed protest demonstrations by political parties, student bodies and civil society groups over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Despite a boost in opposition numbers in the Rajya Sabha against the contentious Bill, the BJP is confident that the proposed legislation will be passed by the House with a comfortable majority on Wednesday when it is scheduled to be taken up for discussion. Sources in the BJP-led NDA said they were sure of getting near 124-130 votes in the Upper House, which has an effective strength of 240 members.

The Northeast Students’ Union was staging a protest against the Bill at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday. People from various walks of life and across organisations joined the stir.

The CPI(M)’s Delhi state committee members also held a protest at the same venue against the contentious Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday. Communist Party of India (Marxist) MPs had earlier held a protest near the Gandhi statue on the Parliament premises. Members of the Left party were seen carrying banners, saying “CAB waapis lo” (withdraw the CAB) and “Dharm aadharit CAB nahi chalega” (won’t accept a CAB based on religion).

“The Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Monday night. This law is against our Constitution. This law will be passed in Parliament, despite opposition. For the first time, religion has become the base for citizenship,” Prakash Karat of the CPI(M) said.

Several protestors under the banner ‘United Against Hate’ also raised slogans against the Bill and the government at Jantar Mantar.

“It is anti-people Bill and it will divide the country. We do not support this Bill and if the government will ask us to submit the papers, we will better go to jail than submitting our papers. We do not need to give evidence of our nationality,” said Khalid Saifi (38) from United Against Hate.

Protestors barged into the office of the Janata Dal (United) in the area over Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s support to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Another protestor, 24-year-old student Nabina Khan, said the time has come when every single Indian should boycott this Bill.

“The Bill is communal and Islamophobic in nature. The government has made us feel like we are refugees in our own country. The Bill was passed in the Lower House of Parliament and we know it will pass in the Upper House also, but we urge every single Indian to boycott it,” she said.

The protestors burnt a copy of the Bill and were carrying placards that read ‘Withdraw CAB Permanently’.

Also participating in the demonstration was Taslim Ahmed Rehmani, national secretary of the Social Democratic Party of India. Rehmani termed the Bill anti-national.

Large parts of the Northeast on Tuesday simmered with protests by students’ unions and Left-democratic organisations against the contentious Bill.

A day before the divisive legislation is tabled in the Rajya Sabha, normal life was paralysed in Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley during the shutdown, led by the All Assam Students’ Union and the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO).

The strike coincided with the bandh called by Left-leaning organisations including the SFI, DYFI, AIDWA, AISF and AISA.

Huge processions were taken out in different areas of Guwahati, with protestors raising slogans against the emotive legislation. Agitators engaged in scuffle with security forces near the Secretariat and assembly buildings in Assam when they were prevented from moving forward, police sources said.

In Dibrugarh district, bandh supporters clashed with CISF personnel. Three protestors sustained injuries as they tried to prevent workers of Oil India Ltd (OIL) from entering their offices in Duliajan. Train services across Assam were affected as picketers blocked the tracks, a spokesperson for the Railways said. Examinations were shelved and rescheduled by universities because of the bandh. The strike, however, had little impact in Bengali-dominated Barak Valley.

In Tripura, agitators participating in a bandh called by the NESO set a market, where shops were owned mostly by non-tribals, on fire in Dhalai district, police said. However, no one was injured in the incident and the blaze at Manughat market was doused, a senior police officer said. “Security forces have been deployed in the market but the incident has created fear among the non-tribals who owned most of the shops,” the officer said.

The bandh threw normal life out of gear in Dhalai, West Tripura and Khowai districts with residents remaining indoors while attendance in offices was thin, he said. Train services in the entire state came to a complete halt and vehicular movement was affected, the officer said.

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 (AAPSU). Attendance in government offices was almost nil during the bandh which began at 5 am, officials said.

The All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) observed a total shutdown in the state from 3 am to 6 pm, with the organisation warning that it would intensify its agitation if the bill was not immediately withdrawn.

Incidents of tyre burning and vandalisation of vehicles were reported in Meghalaya capital Shillong, as protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails at a police vehicle damaging it in Mawlai area, East Khasi Hills district deputy commissioner M W Nongbri said. Additional police and CRPF forces have been deployed in sensitive areas, officials said.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill piloted by Home Minister Amit Shah was passed by the Lok Sabha with an overwhelming majority on Monday night.

According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, non-Muslim minorities, who fled religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and moved to the country before December 31, 2014, will be accorded Indian citizenship. It, however, exempted tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, and areas covered under The Inner Line Permit system, notified under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

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