Traffic was disrupted in Upper Assam on Sunday because of massive protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, at Makum and Margherita towns in Tinsukia district, with over 20,000 people participating.
Two rallies — jantar kanth (people’s voice) at Rajanikant Bordoloi Khelpathar at Makum and Margherita garjan (Margherita’s roar) at Town High School, Khelpathar, were held from 11am.
As thousands of people thronged to the venues along National Highway 38, buses from Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh were rescheduled through Makum Bypass. Most transport services stayed off the roads as many of them were reserved for ferrying participants to the rallies. Almost all the shops at Margherita were closed and police and army personnel were deployed in large numbers.
“We warn the Centre not to think of us as cowards or meek. We can roar like lions for our language, culture and traditions,” Vimla Barua, a protester, said at Margherita.
“We don’t want any crowd here on National Highways 38 and 37. We also want the venues free from any chaos and disorder so that the rally passes peacefully,” a traffic police official said at Makum.
Speaking at the Makum rally, the president of the All Assam Students’ Union, Tinsukia unit, Binay Dubey, said, “There is no question of accepting CAA. We will keep on protesting, no matter how long it takes.”
The Akhil Assam Bhojpuri Parishad, Assam Bhojpuri Sahitya Sabha, All Assam Students Union, All Assam Gorkha Students Union, Assam Aanganbadi Karmi Sahayika Sanstha and dozens of other organisations participated in the rallies.
An anti-CAA protest meeting organised by the Nalbari district committee of the AJYCP at Nalbari College on Sunday, saw singer Zubeen Garg claiming that people attending the ruling alliance rally were hired while those attending the anti-CAA rally came on their own. “If the people of the state want, a new political party will be formed. But I will never involve myself in politics.The CAA protest will have gaps now so that people don’t suffer. Maybe we should protest after January 22,” he said. The Supreme Court will take up the petition against CAA on January 22.
He responded to criticism by cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, “He is criticising me because I am telling the truth. I never care about the BJP, AGP or Congress, I just care about the people.”
AASU secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi termed the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government an administration of betrayers as they had come to power on the jati mati bheti slogan but through CAA they will bring in illegal migrants.
AJYCP state secretary Palash Changmai demanded the government to release Akhil Gogoi immediately.
Additional reporting by Neelim Akash Kashyap in Nalbari