6 tribal youths hurt in police firing in Tripura, bandh hits NE states
GUWAHATI, 8th Jan: Six tribal youths agitating against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 were injured in police firing in Tripura as normal life was crippled in almost all the north-eastern states on Tuesday following an 11-hour shutdown called by the North-East Students Organisation (NESO).
The Lok Sabha passed the Bill that seeks to remove hurdles in granting citizenship to eligible migrants, especially Hindus, from six minority groups from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Political parties in the North-East, especially regional outfits, allege that the Bill is an attempt to make illegal migrants eligible for Indian citizenship on the basis of religion.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Monday had alleged that the Bill was against the principle of secularism and if passed, would be "harmful" to states such as Mizoram where there are many illegal Buddhist migrants from Bangladesh.
In Tripura, tribal youths demonstrating against the Bill turned violent at Madhab Bari in western Tripura. The CRPF troopers unable to control the mob opened fire injuring six tribal youths, two of them seriously, said a police officer.
A jawan of the Central Reserve Police Force was also injured following an attack by the agitators, who also burnt down at least 22 shops in the area.
The official said that the CRPF and Tripura State Rifles jawans resorted to lathi-charge and burst teargas shells to bring the situation under control before the firing. Para-Military Assam Rifles troopers held a flag march in the mixed populated areas.
Ruling BJP's partner in Tripura IPFT (Indigenous People's Front of Tripura) and opposition Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura extended support to the 11-hour shutdown called by the NESO.
In Mizoram, the ruling MNF, a constituent of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance NEDA (North East Democratic Alliance), extended its support to the bandh called by powerful NESO, an umbrella body of eight students and youth organisations of the seven northeastern states.
Tripura's oldest tribal-based party INPT (Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura) said the proposed legislation can result in changing the demography of several northeastern states.
BJP's veteran tribal leader in Tripura Rampada Jamatia, supporting the Bill, said: "While considering the Citizenship Bill, the sentiment of parties of the northeastern region should not be ignored."
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha Jitendra Chowdhury told IANS over phone from New Delhi: "There is no scope in the Constitution to provide citizenship on the basis of religion. The cut-off date to determine the foreigners had already been decided on the basis of the 1971 Indira-Mujib pact."
Introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016, the Bill seeks to enable Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents or those whose valid documents expired in recent years to acquire Indian citizenship through the process of naturalisation.
In Assam, agitators clashed with the police, gheraoed chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal's house at his native place in Dibrugarh, blocked national highways and damaged vehicles in Assam during an 11-hour "bandh" called by the AASU to protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) activists clashed with police when they attempted to ransack a BJP office in Dibrugarh, prompting the security forces to resort to lathicharge and fire rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. Nobody was injured in the incident, the police said.
The AASU has called for a statewide "bandh" and it is being supported by the AGP, which withdrew support to the BJP-led government in Assam on Monday.
Opposition Congress, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) are also supporting the bandh.
Normal life was hit in the Brahmaputra valley and was partially affected in the Barak valley due to a "north-east bandh" called by NESO, an umbrella organisation of students' bodies in the region, of which the AASU is a constituent.
The agitators gheraoed Sonowal's house in his home town, Dibrugarh, to register their protest against the bill. They raised slogans that the chief minister had no reason to continue on his post as he could not protect the interests of the people of the state. The protesters blocked roads and national highways by burning tyres and smashed the windshields of trucks, cars and autorickshaws at many places, including in Guwahati, the police said.
The picketers squatted on the railway tracks at various places in Guwahati and Dibrugarh district, but the movement of trains, including that of the Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express and the Kolkata-bound Kamrup Express, resumed after the Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel removed them from the tracks, railway sources said.
There was no movement of goods-laden trucks on all the national highways, following an economic blockade call issued by the KMSS, sources said.
Private and government vehicles plying on the national highways were being escorted by the police in convoys, they added.
Banners and posters at a BJP office were set ablaze in Golaghat, while a black flag was put up at another office of the saffron party in Lakhimpur district, the police said.
The "bandh" also evoked response in the Barak valley, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced on January 4 that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 would be passed in Parliament as soon as possible as a penance for past injustices.
AASU and NESO chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya told reporters, "If Meghalaya and Mizoram can adopt a cabinet resolution opposing the bill, why can't Assam do the same?
"The people of Assam, for the last 70 years since Independence, have been forced by the Centre to agitate for their rights, language, existence, culture, heritage and infrastructure."Dipankar Nath, the president of AASU, which had led the six-year-long Assam Movement against illegal immigrants, said, "Despite wide opposition to it, the BJP government at the Centre has undemocratically imposed the bill on us as they want to win the (Lok Sabha) election by taking the votes of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants."
The "north-east bandh" called by the NESO is being enforced by its member organisations such as the Mizo Zirlai Pawal (MZP), the All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU), the Khasi Students' Union (KSU), the Garo Students' Union (GSU), the Naga Students' Federation (NSF), the All Manipur Students' Union (AMSU) and the Twipra Students' Federation (TSF).
The "bandh" has hit normal life in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, according to reports from these states.