Sporadic incidents of violence and injuries to protesters and security personnel were reported during an 11-hour general strike against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 called by the North East Students’ Organisation (Neso) that paralysed life throughout the region on Tuesday.
Neso, an umbrella organisation comprising the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Meghalaya-based Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and Garo Students’ Union GSU), All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), Naga Students’ Federation, All Manipur Students’ Union (Amsu), Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) and Twipra Students’ Federation (TSF), had called the strike from 5am till 4pm.
At least six TSF supporters were injured at Madhav Bari in Jirania, around 15km from Agartala, when police and the Tripura State Rifles resorted to a baton charge and fired in the air to disperse TSF activists who blocked National Highway 8. “Six persons were injured. Some of them sustained bullet injuries. A TSR jawan was also injured. The injured have been admitted to GB Pant Hospital in Agartala,” an officer in Tripura state police control room said.
Jirania sub-divisional police officer Pran Krishna Das said the activists set eight shops on fire and threw bottles and stones at the police.
The strike was total in Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur with stray incidents of violence reported from Shillong and Imphal.
In Shillong, miscreants damaged a few vehicles. Attendance in government offices was very poor. In Manipur, Amsu supporters blocked roads at several places. Police picked up seven of them from Imphal East and Imphal West districts. Four of them were later released, a source said.
In Aizawl, protesters led by MZP burnt copies of the bill. Mizoram education minister Lalchhandama Ralte, who was present at the protest site, said the state government would not accept the bill.
In Nagaland, NSF president Kesosul Christopher Ltu said the bandh was total and peaceful. He said district administrations and the public extended full cooperation. When The Telegraph visited the Dimapur deputy commissioner’s office around 1.45pm, his chamber and some other sections of the office were found locked. Many passengers, including students of National Institute of Technology, Nagaland, coming from outside the state were stranded at Dimapur airport and railway stations during the bandh.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the board examinations of classes X and XII were exempted from the purview of the bandh.
Train service was affected throughout the region. Offices, schools, commercial banks and business establishments remained closed. Vehicles kept off the roads. The NF Railway said movement of at least 26 trains was affected.
On the contrary, the bandh evoked partial response in the Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi in south Assam where various organisations have been supporting the bill. Stray incidents of picketing were reported in the valley and several persons were detained. In Silchar, headquarters of Cachar district, commercial establishments remained open and traffic was normal. At Madhurapul there, a few organisations staged a protest opposing the bill but security officials brought the situation under control. In Karimganj, about 60 picketers were detained for trying to stage a blockade at Karimganj railway station. In Hailakandi, traffic was comparatively less. Two AIUDF legislators, Suzam Uddin Laskar and Anwar Hussain Laskar, courted detention with over 200 picketers by staging a blockade on NH 154. The presence of employees in offices was less but most shops and business establishments were open.
Additional reporting by Tanmoy Chakraborty in Agartala, Bhadra Gogoi in Dimapur, Rining Lyngdoh in Shillong, Ngangbam Indrakanta Singh in Imphal, Damien Lepcha in Itanagar, Henry L. Khojol in Aizawl, Swapnaneel Bhattacharjee in Silchar and Satananda Bhattacharjee in Hailakandi