Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minster Amit Shah’s visit to Assam, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) on Friday took out torchlight processions pressing for their demands, including the scrapping of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The AASU is also in favour of repealing the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, and implementation of the report of the Committee on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, which safeguards the constitutional rights of indigenous people.
The protesters shouted slogans against Modi, Shah and Sonowal and demanded that the CAA and EIA be repealed along with the implementation of the report of the Clause Six Committee.
The protest ended up in a clash between the AASU members and the police which tried stopping them from taking out the torchlight procession at Tezpur.
In Guwahati, police barricaded the AASU headquarters 'Swahid Bhawan' and did not allow the protesters to move out with torchlights, but the students' body staged their protest behind the barriers.
AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya and president Dipanka Kumar Nath were seen engaged in a heated argument with police officers, who said the rally would be allowed if they handed over the torchlights.
"We refuse to hand over the torchlights as this was a part of our protest programme and we will not change it. We, time and again, assured the authorities that our agitation will be non-violent, democratic and peaceful but the BJP government is scared as they failed the people of Assam," Bhattacharya said.
He was particularly critical of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was the president of the AASU when Bhattacharya was its general secretary, for sending police to quell the protest.
"It was from Swahid Bhawan that Sonowal reached the chief minister's office and now he is sending forces to stop democratic and peaceful protests. This is shameful and we condemn this," he said.
"AASU had taken out torchlight processions since the Assam movement against foreigners and no dispensation stopped it. This is the first government to take such a step, and this proves that the CM is a coward and his government is afraid of non-violent and democratic protest," Bhattacharya said.
The PM had assured AASU that the recommendations of the committee will be implemented to the "last comma and full stop, but it will be nearly a year now that the report was submitted, and no action has been taken so far", he alleged.
"The constitutional safeguard under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord is our democratic right and not any charity by the prime minister or the home minister. Our protests will continue till these demands are fulfilled," the AASU leader asserted.
PM Modi will be arriving in Sivasagar district on Saturday to launch a special programme of the state government to distribute land 'patta' or allotment certificates to over one lakh landless indigenous people. Shah is scheduled to visit the state on Sunday.
Meanwhile, four AASU members were injured in a clash with the police who stopped them from taking out the torchlight procession at Tezpur, following which the district unit of the students' organisation called for a 12-hour Sonitpur Bandh, leaders of the students' body said.
AASU will stage protests in all district and sub-divisional headquarters by covering their faces with a black cloth during Modi's visit on Saturday, and observe 'Black Day' on January 24 by burning copies of the CAA.
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