Mumbai

Amid music, Assamese protest Citizenship Act

Assamese people staying in Mumbai hold a candle light protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill at Azad Maidan on Saturday.

Assamese people staying in Mumbai hold a candle light protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill at Azad Maidan on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

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Over 300 people take part in ‘cultural protest’ at Azad Maidan; protesters say they are not opposed to religion of immigrants, but threats posed to Assam by new law

Over 300 people, mostly natives of Assam, gathered at Azad Maidan on Saturday morning to stage a ‘cultural protest’. The rules of the protest were set and inflammatory content was strictly forbidden. Even slogans to be raised at the protest were picked in advance

Amid the singing traditional Assamese songs and playing of guitars and flutes, the protesters greeted each other and welcomed people from their homeland.

The protesters discussed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and the National Register of Citizens Register and said they protesting the threat to their existence, not the religion of immigrants to Assam.

Playback singer Papon and national award-winning film director Jahnu Barua were among the protesters. Mr. Barua said, “If 8.5% of Bangladesh’s population, which is Hindu, enters India and the government decides to distribute them according to the area of States, will Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat accept them? We are not concerned about their religion, but all we know is that they are foreigners. It is a total injustice on the people of the Northeast and it is sad that the leaders cannot understand our problems.”

Amar Das, a musician, said less than 48% Assamese are now living in their homeland. “The Assam Movement resulted in the Assam Accord that illegal immigrants from 1966 to 1971 would be given citizenship. Now the government has extended that time period till 2014. The Barak valley is already dominated by Bangladeshi Hindus.”

Meera Sonowal (67), a retired teacher, said the Assamese will turn into a minority due to the overcrowding of Bangladeshi migrants. She said, “We don’t disrespect any language or culture, but our own culture and language are getting extinct in our own homeland.” The protesters also observed silence to mourn the death of two people who were killed in police firing in Assam.

Bitopi Dutta, a student from Ireland who returned to India two days ago, said she is stuck in Mumbai as Assam is under lockdown. “Trains and flights have been cancelled, cellular network is bad and there is no internet, which is why I cannot even be in regular touch with my family,” she said.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 3:57:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/amid-music-assamese-protest-act-threatening-their-existence/article30308463.ece

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