As Narendra Modi starts a whirlwind tour to the North East India, in what is being deemed a pre-election visit, reports suggest that the prime minister might witness embarrassing protests on the way against his government's move to bring the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Modi, who will visit Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura on Saturday, is expected to launch/ inaugurate myriad developmental projects in these states, including laying the foundation of a new Greenfield airport and Sela tunnel, launch the DD Arun Prabha channel.
However, the protests against the prime minister already seems to have started. Assam's student unions groups raised slogans against the proposed legislation and waved black flags in protest as Modi arrived in Guwahati on Friday evening. This is the prime minister's first visit to Assam eversince massive protests erupted against the controversial legislation.
Protests in Assam over Modi's visit
The All Assam Students Union (AASU) members shouted slogans against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and waved black flags at the prime minister as he arrived in Guwahati on Friday.
A large number of AASU members were seen waving black flags to the prime minister and shouting slogans as his convoy crossed the gates of the Gauhati University at around 6.30 pm and a few minutes later as he crossed the premises of the AASU headquarters on MG Road.
Slogans like 'Modi go back', 'Scrap Citizenship Amendment Bill', 'Joi Aai Asom (Glory to Mother Assam)' were heard. The demonstrators were restricted as the gates to the AASU office was locked by the police, the students union's chief advisor Sammujal Bhattacharya claimed.
"The government with its machinery can show its power and strength...No matter how much the government tries to quell the protests, the agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will continue. The government has proven that it is a protector of the Bangladeshi infiltrators and is against the indigenous people of Assam," he said.
Modi arrived on Friday 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.
"The pain of the indigenous people will be seen across Assam tomorrow...Effigies of the prime minister will be burnt in every corner of the state," said AASU president Dipanka Nath. Peasant organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) too showed black flag to the prime minister at Adabari and Fancy Bazar areas of the city which fell on his route.
KMSS chief Akhil Gogoi said on Friday that Modi "will be shown" black flags by 70 organisations protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Saturday. "Modi has come here to seek votes from the people of Assam. The Bill has been brought in to give citizenship to Hindu Bengalis from Bangladesh and get their votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls," he alleged.
Three Tripura CPM MPs to boycott prime minister's visit
Three MPs of the Opposition CPM in Tripura will boycott the programme of Modi to protest and express solidarity with the movement against the citizenship bill. In a signed joint press statement issued by the only Lok Sabha MPs from the state, Jitendra Chowdhury, Shankar Prasad Datta and Rajya Sabha MP Jharna Das Baidya said "We the three MPs of Tripura have taken a conscious decision to boycott the functions at Agartala to be attended by the Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi tomorrow on 9 February, 2019."
If the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is enacted in Parliament, it would grossly harm the cause of the North East region in the long run and harm the secular fabric of the country. "The bill is against the spirit of our Constitution," the statement said.
The Bill has already been passed in the Lok Sabha. "We appeal before the Honble Prime Minister and his Government to immediately withdraw the Bill from the Rajya Sabha, honoring the genuine sentiments and anguish of the people of this country in general and the North East in particular," it added.
Modi's itinerary full of developmental projects for North East
However, unfazed with any such protests, the prime minister is expected to lay the foundation stone of northeast gas grid foundation in Guwahati, and inaugurate the Garjee-Belonia railway line in Tripura. As per the Prime Minister's Office, Modi will reach Itanagar from Guwahati on Saturday morning and will unveil a series of development projects at IG Park in Itanagar.
As part of his outreach to the North East region ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Modi will lay the foundation stone for the construction of Greenfield airport at Hollongi. At present, the nearest airport to Itanagar is at Lilabari in Assam at a distance of 80 kilometres. The airport is likely to have various sustainability features like a green belt along approach road to act as a noise barrier, rainwater harvesting, use of energy efficient equipment, and so on.
Modi will also lay the foundation stone of Sela tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh, which will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang Valley for civilians as well as security forces. The tunnel is expected to reduce travel time to Tawang by an hour, ANI reported.
A new dedicated DD Channel for Arunachal Pradesh DD Arun Prabha will be launched by Modi at IG Park, Itanagar. The channel will be the 24th channel operated by Doordarshan. He will also dedicate 110 megawatt Pare Hydroelectric Plant in Arunachal Pradesh to the nation.
The foundation stone for permanent campus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) at Jote, Arunachal Pradesh will also be laid by Modi on this occasion. It will cater to film students, especially those from the North Eastern states.
In Tripura, Modi is scheduled to unveil the statue of state's last ruler Birbikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur at the airport, address a public rally at Swami Vivekananda Maidan, inaugurate a new block of Indian Institute of Information technology (IIT) at the premises of Tripura Institute of Technology (TIT) and a 23-kilometre-long railway track between Garjee in Gomati district and Belonia in South Tripura, BJP sources said.'
With inputs from agencies