New Delhi: While curfew in Guwahati and Dibrugarh towns was relaxed for a few hours, protests against the Citizenship Act raging through the northeastern states have ostensibly led Union home minister Amit Shah to cancel his visits to Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh on December 15 and 16, reports have said.
Shah, who led the debates in the parliament in favour of the bill, was to take part in the passing out parade at the North Eastern Police Academy near Shillong on Sunday and a festival in Tawang on Monday, reported The Hindu. Shah’s office has not given a reason for the cancellation.
This is the third state function deferred in the aftermath of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill’s passing in the parliament and its subsequent transition into a law with the President’s assent. An India-Japan summit has been postponed and the Bangladesh foreign minister has cancelled his India visit.
The Assamese ‘gamosa’ and the salutation ‘Joi Aai Asom’ along with the cry ‘Ho! Ho!’ have returned as protests continue through Assam.
On Saturday, police used loudspeakers to inform public that the curfew has been relaxed in Guwahati from 9 am to 4 pm and in Dibrugarh from 8 am to 2 pm on Saturday.
Long queues were seen outside shops in Guwahati at several places, including Dispur, Uzan Bazar, Chandmari, Silpukhuri and Zoo Road.
Auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws were visible plying across the city. However, buses were off roads. Petrol pumps in the city have also opened with vehicles waiting in lines to refuel.
Schools and offices, however, remained shut.
Meanwhile, Assam finance and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, considered the architect of BJP’s emergence in the state, has ridiculed the cry ‘Ho! Ho!’ which is largely being used by AASU protesters.
He said the protestors are saying they are fighting for protection of their language, “but is this an Assamese expression?”
AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya retorted, “We are on a mission to ensure the revocation of the amended Citizenship Act. This is our traditional war cry which we will continue to chant till our demand is fulfilled.”
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) protests against #CitizenshipAmendmentAct in Guwahati.
(📸credit: ANI) pic.twitter.com/B28kQjLm20
— NDTV (@ndtv) December 13, 2019
In Shillong, the curfew was relaxed on Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm as the law and order situation improved, officials said.
Offices and a few shops have opened in the state capital, said East Khasi Hills district deputy commissioner M.W. Nongbri.
“The curfew has been relaxed due to the improved law and order situation,” Nongbri told PTI.
She said traffic has been normal since morning in the city and there was no report of any untoward incident in the past 12 hours.
The curfew was relaxed on Friday for 12 hours, beginning 10 am.
Meanwhile, the state government has decided to convene a special one-day session of the Meghalaya assembly to bring in a resolution to implement the Inner Line Permit regime.
“We have decided to convene a special session of the state legislative assembly with the sole aim to bring in a resolution to implement the ILP regime,” deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong told PTI.
Led by chief minister Conrad K. Sangma, a delegation from the state also met Amit Shah and apprised him of the shortage of essential commodities here following the situation in neighbouring Assam.
“The Union home minister was very receptive to all the issues, raised by the delegation and has agreed to examine the matter at the earliest,” a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said.
Hon Home Minister Shri @AmitShah ji and Hon’ble MoS for Home Affairs Shri @kishanreddybjp ji met a delegation of NDA allies & the Cabinet led by the CM of Meghalaya Shri @conradsangma ji.
Hon Home Minister reassured commitment to protect the interests of the people of Meghalaya. pic.twitter.com/A0lbAWak9O
— Office of G. Kishan Reddy (@KishanReddyOfc) December 14, 2019
Schools and colleges were closed, markets were shut and vehicles remained largely off roads in parts of Nagaland on Saturday amid a six-hour shutdown call given by the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), protesting against the amended Citizenship Act, officials said.
No untoward incident has been reported so far from the Naga inhabited areas where the shutdown began at 6 am, they said.
The sudden shutdown, announced by the NSF on Friday to express resentment of the Naga population against the law, will continue till 12 pm.
Students appearing examination, medical staff on duty, media personnel, and those having weddings are being allowed on roads by the protestors.
State capital Kohima also wore a deserted look with most of the commercial establishments not opening due to the shutdown.
Nagaland and Mizoram are protected by Inner Line Permit and it will continue to remain protected. Keeping in mind the feelings of Manipur, we’re including them into the Inner Line Permit as well: Shri @AmitShah #CitizenshipAmendmentBill2019 pic.twitter.com/Fmu0ewreei
— BJP (@BJP4India) December 9, 2019
NSF vice president Dievi Yano condemned the amended Citizenship Act, saying it did not take into account the sentiments of the indigenous people of the Northeast.
“The NSF totally resents the injustice done by the central government and we will never support the amended Citizenship Act, which is the latest weapon of the Centre to divide the Northeastern people on concessional lines,” he said.
“The NSF does not believe in classification of illegal immigrants on religious lines as the NSF regards all illegal immigrants as criminals and they must be treated accordingly,” he said.
Further, the NSF condemned the three Naga MPs — Tokheho Yepthomi (Lok Sabha) and K G Kenye (Rajya Sabha) from Nagaland and Lorho S Pfoze (Lok Sabha) from Manipur — for voting in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
The NSF said that along with the North East Students Organisation (NESO) it would take all necessary measures to ensure that the law does not take effect in the region.
On Friday, Dimapur Naga Students’ Union along with the Joint Committee on Prevention of Illegal Immigrants organised a candlelight vigil in Dimapur which saw hundreds of people taking part.
(With PTI inputs)