The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and 28 organisations representing various ethnic groups of Assam staged 11-hour mass hunger strike on Tuesday in protest against the BJP-led Central Government’s move to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis by implementing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 at the Assam Engineering Institute (AEI) playground, Chandmari in Guwahati.
The protest was also joined by a large number of people including representatives of various other organisations, political parties, intellectuals, artistes, former rebels, journalists, writers and others.
The protest, which started at 6 am, continued till 5 pm.
The protestors demanded constitutional safeguard to the indigenous people of Assam on the basis of the Assam Accord, implementation of the Assam Accord, withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, sealing of the India-Bangladesh border and signing of a bilateral agreement between India and Bangladesh for deportation of illegal Bangladeshis.
Talking to Northeast Now, AASU chief advisor Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya warned the Central Government not to dump Bangladeshis in Assam and said, “Assam is not a dustbin to dump Bangladeshis.”
The AASU chief advisor also said that the AASU along with 28 other organisations representing various ethnic groups would continue protest against the Bill until the Centre withdraws it.
“The Central Government should know that there is a region called Northeast beyond Kolkata which is also a part of the country. We won’t tolerate discrimination with us anymore,” Bhattacharya said.
Dr Bhattacharya urged the BJP-led Assam Government to take bold steps and voice against the Bill for the greater interest of the indigenous people of the State.
Bhattacharya while citing the Conrad Sangma-led Meghalaya Cabinet’s decision to denounce the Bill, where BJP is also a partner in the coalition Government, questioned the Assam Government why they couldn’t do the same.
Reacting to a question on announcement of Ram temples to be built by Ram Sena, Asom, a lesser-known right-wing organisation, in minority-dominated areas in the State, the AASU chief advisor said, “There is no place for communalism, extremism and illegal Bangladeshis in Assam.”
Demanding scrapping of the Bill, All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) president Pramod Boro, who also joined the protest said, “The Bill would pose a serious threat to the ethnic groups of the State. The illegal migrants have already made a big impact on the socio-economic and political aspects of lives in the State.”
Urging the Government to provide constitutional safeguards to the ethnic groups, languages and cultures of the State, the ABSU president further said, “The Bill, if passed by the Centre, would diminish the identity of various ethnic groups.”
Talking to Northeast Now on Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohilary’s stand on the Bill, the ABSU president said, “Hagrama Mohilary already said that he was an opportunist. It is unfortunate to have such opportunist political leaders in the State.”
The general secretary of the pro-talk faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Anup Chetia, who also joined the protest, stated that if the Bill is passed by the Parliament an unruly situation would arise in Assam. “We will be compelled to withdraw from the peace process,” he warned.
Chetia further said that due to the Central Government’s forceful attempt to implement the Bill many youths have returned to the jungles.
Addressing the gathering, Sadou Asom Karmachari Parishad president Basab Kalita said, “The BJP-led Central Government has been striving to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Christians and Persians who came from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh which we won’t tolerate anymore.”
Basab Kalita also demanded implementation of Assam Accord to identify and deport illegal migrants from Assam.
Asom Gana Parishad’s senior leader and former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, AGP’s Kaliabor MLA and Assam Water Resource Minister Keshab Mahanta, AGP’s Bokakhat MLA and Assam Agriculture Minister Atul Bora, Congress leaders Apurba Bhattacharya and Kishore Bhattacharya also joined the protest programme against the Bill.
The protest was also joined by eminent intellectual Dr Hiren Gohain, educationalist and author Dr Dinesh Baishya, noted sculptor Biren Singha, writer mayor Bora, Asom Sahitya Sabha president Dr Paramananda Rajbongshi, journalists Adip Phukan, Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, Maini Mahanta, Nitumoni Saikia, Utal Baruah and others.
The protest was also joined by representatives of 8 tribal Sahitya Sabhas including Boro sahitya Sabha, Deori Sahitya Sabha, Rabha Sahitya Sabha, Mising Sahitya Sabha, Tiwa Sahitya Sabha, Karbi Sahitya Sabha, Dimasa Sahitya Sabha and Garo Sahitya Sabha.
The hunger strike came to an end as the former Vice-Chancellor of Gauhati University Dr Hiralal Duwarah, Pro-VC of Tezpur University and former VC of Gauhati University Dr Amarjyoti Chodhury and former VC of Rajiv Gandhi University (formerly known as Arunachal University) Dr Annada Charan Bhagawati offered drinking water to the protestors.