Guwahati: All Assam Students Union (AASU) members shouted slogans against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and waved black flags at Prime Minister Narendra Modi who arrived in Guwahati on Friday evening on a two-day visit to the Northeast.
The prime minister witnessed the protests when he travelled to the Raj Bhavan, where he will spend the night, from Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport.
Many AASU activists were seen waving black flags and shouting slogans as Modi’s convoy crossed the gates of the Gauhati University around 6.30 pm and later when it crossed the union’s headquarters at MG Road.
The workers chanted slogans like “Modi go back”, “Scrap Citizenship Amendment Bill”, and “Joi Aai Asom [Glory to Mother Assam]”.
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, an organization working for farmers, also waved black flags as Modi’s convoy crossed the Adabari and Fancy Bazar areas.
PM Modi arrived at the Guwahati airport from Jalpaiguri in West Bengal in a special Indian Air Force plane and was received by Governor Jagdish Mukhi, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and senior government officials.
According to official sources, Modi will reach Arunachal capital Itanagar on Saturday morning. He will lay the foundation stone of a Greenfield airport at Hollongi near Itanagar and a tunnel in Sela which will reduce travel time to the India-China border town of Tawang by an hour. The airport will not only boost the region’s connectivity and economic growth, it will also be of strategic importance.
He will launch a new dedicated DD channel for the state “DD Arun Prabha” and dedicate the 110 MW Pare Hydroelectric Plant to the nation. He will also lay the foundation stone for a permanent campus of Film and Television Institute of India at Jote and inaugurate the upgraded Tezu Airport.
In Guwahati, PM Modi will lay the foundation stone of North East Gas Grid which will lead to uninterrupted supply of natural gas across the Northeast. He will inaugurate a gas processing plant in Tinsukia and an LPG capacity augmentation of mounted storage vessel in Guwahati. He will also lay the foundation stone of NRL bio-refinery at Numaligarh and the 729-km long Barauni-Guwahati gas pipeline.In Tripura, he will dedicate the Garjee-Belonia railway line to the nation by unveiling a plaque. He will also inaugurate the new complex of the Tripura Institute of Technology and unveil the statue of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur at Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Agartala.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to amend a 1955 law to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years. Most northeastern states have opposed the proposed legislation, and it has sparked several protests in the region.
There have been protests and scholars and academics have been busy explaining why the CAB should be opposed. Some groups from Assam staged a naked protest in front of Parliament in the January cold.
Pressure groups across the region under the banner of the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) have rallied together to protest the Bill which is seen as a dangerous ploy to populate the North Eastern states with Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.
Earlier today Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh Friday said the state government’s stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is not different from that of the people. He said he had made his stand clear that he was against the proposed legislation despite being the chief minister of a government led by the BJP, which backs it nationally. “We share the same apprehension on the bill just as the people feel,” Singh said at a programme here.
Also three MPs of opposition CPI (M) on Friday announced that they will boycott Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s programme in Tripura on Saturday.
The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in its Winter Session. However, it is pending in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) does not command a majority.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had quit the NDA in January, protesting against the bill.
The current strength of the Rajya Sabha is 245 (one seat is vacant). The BJP would need support of 123 MPs to pass the bill. The NDA is currently falling short of numbers. The BJP has 73 MPs in the House. With some of its allies still supporting them, and votes from independents and nominated members, it could reach 87.
Opponents of the bill hand have 127 votes. The key opponents are Indian National Congress (50 seats), All India Trinamool Congress (13), Samajwadi Party (13), Telugu Desam Party (6), JD(U) (6), Shiv Sena (3), among others.Northeastern parties such as the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) and the Naga Peoples Front (NPF), both with one MPs each, are expected to vote against the bill.
Parties such as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), among others, have maintained a neutral stance so far.
This bloc makes up around 31 votes. Their votes would be crucial for the NDA to pass the bill. BJP is reportedly trying to woo some of the parties which have opposed the bill.
The writer is pursuing his graduation at the department of English, Aligarh Muslim University and can be reached at [email protected]