Guwahati: “CAB Aami Namanu” (We will not accept the Citizenship Amendment Bill). The voices grew louder as the death toll in protests against the amended Citizenship Act increased to four on Friday.
With both Delhi and Dispur failing to convince people on the impact of the contentious legislation, protesters have vowed to continue their agitation in a “peaceful and democratic” way.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 was officially signed into a law by President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday.
Thousands turned up for a 10-hour hunger strike led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) at the Assam Engineering Institute ground in Chandmari on Friday. An overwhelming number of senior citizens, farmers, journalists and academicians took part in the protest, carrying banners and placards that read ‘Assam Rejects CAB’ and 'No to CAB'. Some placards had the map of Assam, while carried illustrations showing ‘CAB’ as a jeering monster holding a lotus, the BJP’s symbol, in hand.
“We should not lose hope, but continue to fight. The protests have to be peaceful, and it’s going to be a long battle. CAB aami namanu,” said AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya, adding that the youth would not divert from studies, but also take part in protests.
"I warn the state government not to use force against students who are out there to protest peacefully," he added.
The film fraternity of Assam, including singers and musicians, gathered for the mass hunger strike, chanting 'Joi Aai Asom' slogans with thousands of Assamese people. Singer Zubeen Garg who has been motivating people to join the protest announced that artistes of Assam will stage a peaceful demonstration against the Citizenship Act on December 16.
A Guwahati resident told News18 that he was earlier a supporter of the Citizenship Act, but changed his stand “after witnessing the incidents across Assam”.
“I now oppose the Citizenship Act in totality. It may be good for the state, but if the people of all strata are against it, the government should give due respect to the will of the people, and should have dropped the demand for bringing in CAB,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“I am a Bengali, and my family has been in Assam for more than 100 years. I am married to an Assamese. I feel am an Assamese by heart and a Bengali by birth. I first want illegal influx to stop,” he said.
Kamrup Deputy Commissioner Biswajit Pegu said the situation in Guwahati is slowly returning to normal.
“We have cleared the debris along the roads… The situation seems to be returning to normalcy.”
Along with the administration, AASU members also got down to a cleaning spree, asking people not to damage public property.
“This is our Guwahati. We have to keep it clean and restore its beauty. We request people not to resort to damaging public property, but protest peacefully. Our voices must shake up Delhi,” said a student activist.
Locals rushed out to stock up on ration and essentials as shops opened for a brief period during the day on Friday.
“I could not find potatoes. It was all sold off in seconds. No fresh vegetables in stock. Thanks to this government, we are having to survive on leftovers. People should remind themselves of this condition when they cast their vote next time,” said a resident of Ganeshguri.
Long queues were seen outside petrol pumps and ATMs. Residents have also been affected by shortage of drinking water. Meanwhile, internet services remain suspended till Saturday amidst stringent security presence across the state.