A huge gathering of people assembled at the Assam Engineering Institute playground in Guwahati on May 29 to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was tabled in the parliament in 2016, seeks to provide citizenship to minorities (non-Muslims) from neighbouring countries who came to India up till December 31, 2014.
All Assam Students Union (AASU) called for a 11-hour hunger strike on May 29 which was attended by around 5,000 people, which included representatives from more than 28 organizations. The office bearers of Asam Sahitya Sabha, the apex literary body of the state, were also present.
AASU, which led a six-year long bloody agitation in 1980s in Assam to drive out all the outsiders, has been vehemently opposing the bill. Along with them, all the students’ organizations of all the Northeast states, including Tripura which has also huge Bengali population, have opposed the bill.
Even Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), one of the allies of the BJP-led state government has opposed the bill. Most of the Assam groups have accepted March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for detecting illegal citizens as per Assam Accord.
The Assam Accord was signed after Assam Agitation with the central government.
The JPC members who visited Assam last month have experienced that more than 280 groups have submitted their views against the bill. The scenario in Bengali-majority Barak Valley is slightly different with many individuals and organizations speaking for the bill.
The move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion has been widely opposed by all on May 29.
“We are thankful to all the people who have extended their support to the cause. It’s a strong message to the Centre and state government that the people of Assam are against the bill which is a threat to our identity,” AASU advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya said.
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former two-time chief minister and founder president of AGP, said that it’s time everyone should be united to oppose the bill.
“We have come here to oppose the bill and it should be opposed strongly. We have already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi citing the reasons,” Mahanta said.
Mahanta, who was one of the signatories of Assam Accord, said that a forum of Assam Agitation veterans will go to New Delhi to meet all the political parties before the July session of the parliament.
The Convention Committee of Indigenous Tribal Sahitya Sabhas, Assam (ITSSA) reiterated its stand against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
ITSSA, an umbrella organization of eight tribal literary bodies of Assam, strongly opposed the bill saying that it directly conflicts with the Assam Accord.
“The state has already taken the burden of hundreds of thousands of migrants before 1971. According to the Assam Accord, anyone who has come after March 25, 1971, is illegal. We follow this. Besides, we don’t want to bring a religious line in dividing the migrants. It is not at all acceptable. We have already written to the chairman of the joint parliamentary committee and now we are renewing our demand,” ITSSA secretary general Kamala Kanta Mushahary said.
National award winning filmmaker Jahnu Barua, national award winning singer Tarali Sharma and popular musician Zubeen Garg were also part of the mass hunger strike.
“I have been appealing everyone to be united and oppose the bill. For this cause I will continue to oppose. We can’t divide the illegal citizens in the line of religion,” said Zubeen.
All the individuals who were present during the hunger strike have vowed to continue their agitation.