Normal life was paralysed during the 12-hour bandh in Assam that was called in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2106

Guwahati: The slogan, “Ei jui jolise, joliboi” (loosely translating to “the fire has started, will continue burning”), that was widely used by protestors during the 12-hour bandh in the state on Tuesday brought back memories of the Assam Agitation.

For, just like the popular movement of the 1980s, Tuesday’s strike called by 46 different organisations of the state saw massive participation by the masses. Shops were shut, public transport system was out of bounds and several instances of violence were reported from various parts of the state.

The mega rally was called in protest against the central government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and a proposed rally by some Bengali Hindu organisations on November 17.

Akhil Gogoi-led KMSS organised the strike on Tuesday in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was supported by 45 other organisations

The bandh was called by farmers’ rights activist Akhil Gogoi and his organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and was supported by as many as 45 other organisations cutting across political ideologies. The strike was called mainly against the Bengali Hindu organistaions’ call for a rally on November 17 in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Despite Assam’s dubious distinction as far as strikes and bandhs are concerned, Tuesday’s rally garnered massive support from general public. Here’s all that you need to know about the current situation in Assam:

Protestors burn tyres during the 12-hour bandh in Assam on Tuesday

Who supported the strike?

Several political parties such as the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), and prominent organisations such as the KMSS, All Assam Koch Rajbongsi Students’ Union, Ahom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Satra Parishad and Tai Ahom Students’ Organisation, among several others.

Why are they opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016, to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014. The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation. The bill has been dubbed as against the secular principle of the Indian Constitution.

What happened where during the 12-hour bandh on Tuesday?

As many as 50 people were detained in Bongaigaon including student leaders. Protest turned violent in eastern Assam’s Jorhat as more than 100 protestors clashed with the police. Around 17 were arrested from Sonari in eastern Assam’s Charaideo district. Seven bandh supporters were arrested from Golaghat district. Protestors blocked the railway track at Sarupathar in Golaghat district.

Bandh supporters blocked railway tracks at several places of the state

What’s the connection with the NRC?

In the Supreme Court-monitored update process for the National Register of Citizenship (NRC), about 3.29 crore people applied to include their names in the draft list.

On December 31, 2017, the first draft of the NRC was published, in which names of 1.9 crore people were featured. However, the SC fixed the publication date of the ‘final draft’ on 30 July this years. After the publication of the ‘final draft’, names of 40,07,707 people were left out.

Since the time of Assam Agitation in the 1980s which culminated with the signing of the historic Assam Accord on August 15, 1985 the people of the state have been demanding deportation of illegal migrants. However, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will entitle Hindu illegal migrants for Indian citizenship, which is against the principle of the Assam Accord.

Proposed November 17 rally by Bengali organisations

Assam is mainly divided into two regions: the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley. While the Brahmaputra Valley is dominated by the Assamese-speaking people, the Barak Valley mainly has Bengali-speaking population.

During the election campaigns in the Barak Valley, BJP leaders including then Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had said that, if voted to power, the saffron party would provide citizenship to all migrants. Keeping with his election promise, the Modi-government introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in 2016.

In support of the bill, the Citizen Right Protection Forum, Assam (CRPFA), a conglomeration of 26 Bengali organisations, has called for a massive rally on November 17.

In a show of power, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the ruling BJP’s alliance partner in Assam, organised a massive rally in Guwahati in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Why did Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the ruling BJP’s alliance partner in state, stage a massive protest rally during the bandh?

The AGP was formed following the Assam Agitation in 1985 and since then has come to power thrice. In the 2016 assembly elections, AGP became a part of the BJP-led government. However, since the introduction of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the AGP, led by three-time CM Prafullla Kumar Mahanta and party president Atul Bora, has been threatening to quit the coalition over the issue.

But since the state BJP unit and the government did not make its position clear on the issue and the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) went ahead with the tabling of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 on October 23, the AGP displayed a massive show of power during the bandh on Tuesday.

Although the AGP has not come out of the coalition yet, the party has announced that it is going it alone in the upcoming panchayat polls.

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