Economic blockade to protest citizenship bill in Assam

Guwahati, Jan 8 (PTI) As many as 70 organisations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), began an indefinite “economic blockade” in the state on Tuesday protesting against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The groups have affirmed that they would not allow locally produced oil, petroleum products, coal, forest products and limestone to be taken of the state.

It would also organise a state-wide protest on Wednesday against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which is scheduled to be moved by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for passage in Lok Sabha today.

Large sections of people in Assam and other northeastern states have been protesting against the bill, saying it will nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after March 24, 1971 should be deported.

“From today, we have started our indefinite economic blockade in protest of the bill. We will not allow to take our resources out of the state,” KMSS Adviser Akhil Gogoi told PTI.

The supporters of the 70 organisations would hold protests in front of their offices and installations of Oil India Ltd and ONGC across the state, he added.

“Our aim is to prevent taking away oil, petroleum products, coal, forest products and limestone from the state,” Gogoi said.

Gogoi also said that protests will be held across the district headquarters of the state on Wednesday, but refused to divulge details.

When contacted, an Oil India official said the company has been appealing to the agitators to spare the sector as it is related to safety and hazardous materials, which needs constant supervising by experts.

“Also, 440 tea gardens run with our gas. PSU firms like BVFCL, NEEPCO and APL too get our gas. Digboi and NRL Refineries get crude from us. So, the perception that all our products go out of the state is not correct. Most of our produce are consumed in the state itself and very little go out,” he added.

The official also said that if Oil India stops production, the power scenario of the state will worsen.

A spokesperson of ONGC said: “This protest is not against ONGC, but pertains to some other issues. During the blockade, we will work as per the prevailing law and order situation at that point of time.”

On Monday, KMSS and several organisations from Assam staged protests in Delhi outside Parliament against the Centre’s move to amend the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, while the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) observed it as ‘Black Day’.

The Union Cabinet on Monday cleared the redrafted Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The fresh Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12, even if they do not possess any proper document.