Political, student, indigenous groups plan protests against CAA in northeast

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Congress-led United Opposition Forum (UOF) and nearly 30 student and indigenous bodies, including the All Assam Students Union (AASU), plan to intensify protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) after the notification of the rules on Monday for the implementation of the legislation.

“We would not accept CAA in any manner…,” said AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya. He said the legislation is harmful to Assam’s people and that the peaceful, non-violent, and democratic protests against it would continue and intensify.

He said copies of CAA will be burnt in all state capitals across the northeast on Tuesday under the banner of North East Students Organisation. “It will be followed by torchlight rallies across Assam on Tuesday evening and other modes of protest. We have applied to file a petition in the Supreme Court opposing CAA.”

On February 29, UOF submitted a memorandum to President Draupadi Murmu seeking repeal of CAA or its non-implementation in Assam, calling the legislation unconstitutional. UOF is planning to contest the national polls this summer together. It has said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed the legislation in parliament “taking advantage of its majority” and “ignoring the sentiment of the people of Assam”.

Congress leader Debabrata Saikia accused the BJP of breaking its promise of protecting Assam and its people. He added the CAA will allow undocumented immigrants, who entered Assam before 2015, to become Indian citizens. “This is in complete violation of the Assam Accord, which said anyone who entered Assam illegally after March 25, 1971, would be deemed as an illegal immigrant and deported. I hope the people of Assam will give a befitting reply to the BJP for this betrayal. Protests against CAA will continue.”

Indigenous groups in the northeast fear the CAA could lead to a fresh influx of undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh.

The calls for protests against the legislation continued even as Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday warned political parties could lose their registrations if they call for strikes in violation of a high court order. He stated those opposing CAA should approach the Supreme Court as street protests do not serve any purpose.

Sarma maintained student groups and non-political bodies can call for bandhs, but political parties cannot do so because the high court order prohibits such bandhs.

Assam Police chief GP Singh on February 29 cited the March 2019 high court order asking the government to hold those calling for bandhs accountable. “With the GSDP [Gross State Domestic Product] of Assam pegged at 5,65,401 crore, loss from a day’s bandh would be approximately 1643 crores recoverable from those who call for such a bandh in accordance with Para 35(9) of the aforementioned order of the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court order,” he said in a post on X.

The passage of CAA in December 2019 to fast-track the citizenship process for non-Muslims, who have entered India before 2015 from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, triggered protests in Assam that left five people dead in police firing.