12-hour bandh against Citizenship Bill evokes widespread response; Little impact in Dima Hasao and BTAD, no bandh in Barak Valley

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Oct 23: Barring in Barak Valley and Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD), the 12-hour Assam bandh, called by 46 indigenous organisations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, evoked a widespread response across the state on Tuesday.

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and 44 organisations called the 12-hour bandh to protest against the Centre’s bid to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in the Winter Session of Parliament.

Political parties, including the Congress and the AIUDF, have extended their support to the bandh “in the interest of Assam and its indigenous people”.

Farmers’ leader Akhil Gogoi expressed gratitude to the people of the state for making the bandh a grand success despite “threats” by the police and the administration.

The dawn-to-dusk bandh passed off peacefully in two hill districts of Karbi Anglong on Tuesday. Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) chief executive member (CEM) Tuliram Ronghang said those shops which did not open during the bandh may face cancellation of their trading license.

The roads of the hill town wore a deserted look with no commercial and public vehicle plying and there were few private vehicles. Commercial establishments, shops and educational institutions were shut. There were similar scenes in Bokajan, Howraghat in Karbi Anglong and Kheroni, Hamren and Baithalangso in West Karbi Anglong district. The KAAC Secretariat was functioning normally with CEM Tuliram Ronghang, EMs, principal secretary, secretaries and other officials attending office. KAAC has issued a notice on October 22 to the staff that they need to attend office on October 23.

Ronghang said, “There is a standing order of Supreme Court that bandh is illegal. It is not an order of KAAC or the state government, but it is an order of the Supreme Court and we cannot defy it. We cannot go above the law and we want to end this bandh culture and create work culture in the district. “Team Karbi Anglong’ is always thinking for all round development of the district,” he said.

“Yesterday we have issued an order to all offices for staff to attend their respective offices and action will be taken against those abstained today. Also, in Diphu market those shops that were shutdown during bandh hour today the KAAC authority will have to think about cancellation of their trading licenses,” Ronghang added. Principal Secretary, KAAC, Mahadananda Hazarika said, “The authority will take the matter (absence from office) very seriously and action will be taken against the defaulting officers.”

In Dima Hasao, the bandh has little impact. All shops and business establishments, educational institutions, government and private offices remained open during the bandh period. However, vehicles were off the road.

The bandh was total and peaceful apart from a few stray incidents in Tinsukia, where the police resorted to laticharge on a group of bandh supporters. The bandh supporters burnt tyres at NH 38 at Margherita to block vehicular traffic. During the bandh, picketers burnt tyres on roads across the state to prevent movement of vehicular traffic and blocked rail tracks early morning in a bid to prevent movement of trains. Shops, markets and financial institutions kept their shutters down, while attendance in offices and educational institutions was thin.

In the capital city Guwahati, state-run Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) city and long distance buses plied with police escort Tuesday. Private commercial vehicles, however, kept off the roads as operators claimed that damage to their vehicles during bandhs and riots were not compensated by insurance companies.

Normal life in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts of north Assam has come to a grinding halt since morning due to the bandh. All shops and commercial establishment, educational institutions remained closed while vehicular movements are totally off the roads. Attendance in the government offices at Dhemaji and Jonai are observed thin for the day.

The protesters and supporters blocked the National Highway-15 at several portions of Gogamukh, Dhemaji, Silapathar and Jonai under the district by burning tyres and felling trees in the morning and staged their protest against the government’s move regarding Citizenship Amendment Bill-2016 for granting Citizenship to Hindu Bengalis.

The bandh call is adversely affecting Arunachali passengers from journeying to Itanagar and other places via National Highway-15 passing amidst north Assam districts. A group of protesters took position at Ruksin gate (Arunachal entry gate) at Jonai and blocked the road and cautioned all cab drivers and commuters not to pass through Assam during the day. Consequently, many vehicles full of passengers come from Arunachal side are stranded at Ruksin to move to their destinations at Itanagar and other places.

Barring some minor conflicts with the police, overall situation throughout the district is reported peaceful till 2 pm and no untoward situation has been reported from any parts. The bandh has evoked mixed response in Udalguri district on Tuesday. The district headquarter witnessed a complete downshutter of business establishments with government offices and schools remaining open.

In the Tangla town, shops and markets were seen functioning and people were also seen on the streets inspite of the bandh. The bandh was also total and peaceful in Sonitpur and Biswanath districts with no report of any untoward incident from any part of the two districts. The bandh evoked a mixed response in Hojai district. In Hojai town, shops and markets were seen functioning and people were also seen on the streets. All shops and business establishments, schools and educational institutions, banks and financial institutions remained open during the bandh period. However, long distance buses were off the road during the day.

The bandh was total in Murajhar, Debistan, Nilbagan, Daboka and Jamunamukh areas. The protesters blocked the National Highway 54 at Nilbagan by burning tyres. Eight bandh supporters were detained by the police in the district, police said.

The bandh was also total and peaceful in Nagaon district. No untoward incident was reported from any part of the district till filing of this report.

The bandh was total in Morigaon. All schools, educational institutes, banks, government and private offices remained closed during the bandh period. The vehicles were off the road. The protesters burnt tyres to prevent vehicular traffic on the National Highway at Goroimari. However, the bandh has failed to evoke any response in Jargaon. The police detained AMSU members for imposing the bandh in the district.

The bandh was also total in Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar and Dibrugargh districts. In Namrup, the protesters burnt tyres in BVFCL Main Gate, Sonari Tiniali, Namghar Chariali, Salibasa to block National Highway for vehicular movement.However, there was no impact of the bandh in BTAD and Barak valley districts. Life was normal in all part of Kokrajhar district. All schools, educational institutes, shops and business establishments, banks and financial institutes, government and private offices functioned as usual.

However, the attendance in the government offices were thin despite the government order. The bandh failed to make any impact in south Barak Valley districts. Life was normal throughout the Hailakandi district with government offices, banks and business establishments remained open.

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