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Citizenship Amendment Bill: Why Assam is protesting?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) saw protests in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur this January, but the protests shifted to Assam when Parliament took it up again. ET explains why it has rekindled the anti-foreigner sentiment of the 1980s.

  1. Why is there a bitter protest in Assam?
    Except in Bengali speakers’ dominated Barak valley, people in other parts fear CAB will lead to lakhs of Hindus from Bangladesh swamping indigenous communities, burdening resources and threatening their language, culture and tradition. CAB has a 2014 cut-off date but protesters say Assam bore the brunt of immigrants from 1951 to 1971, while other states did not, and it is unfair to impose more on the state. Protesters say they do not trust the Centre and CAB will undo the Assam Accord.
  2. What is the Assam Accord?
    People noticed an unusual rise in voters for the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha bypoll in 1979, and suspected it was due to influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. It led to a massive and violent agitation in which 885 people were killed over six years. The stir ended after the Centre signed the Assam Accord in 1985. The accord put the date of detection and deportation of foreigners as March 25 1971. For other states, it was 1951. CAB now has a new cut-off date of 2014. Protesters say it, hence, violates the accord.
  3. What is NRC?
    The National Registry of Citizens was a promise made in the Assam Accord to identify and deport foreigners. By the time it was published, it became evident that majority of those denied citizenship were Hindus or indigenous tribes. Protesters say CAB will make NRC redundant and bestow citizenship on illegal immigrants. However, the Asom Gana Parishad says Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will insulate Assam from CAB’s adverse impact.
  4. What is Clause 6 of the Assam Accord?
    Clause 6 of Assam accord relates to constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  5. What is Inner Line Permit?
    The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is a system introduced for border areas by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. People outside such declared areas can visit the places only if they have a permit. They cannot settle in such areas even with ILP. The system is now being used to protect certain areas from the purview of CAB. Places notified for protecting tribes under Sixth Schedule Areas of the Constitution too have been placed outside CAB’s purview. ILP is applicable to most areas of other NE states. In Assam, Karbi Anglong, Dima Haso and Bodoland are protected under the Sixth Schedule. They, however, make only seven out of 33 Assam districts.
  6. Why has the epicentre of protest against CAB shifted to Assam?
    Home minister Amit Shah had reached out to political parties, organisations and NE CMs while redrafting CAB. The assurance that CAB will not hit ILP and Schedule VI areas worked. There is ILP in Nagaland (with the inclusion of Dimapur this week), Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Mizoram. Meghalaya is on the verge of getting ILP
  7. How strong is the protest in Assam?
    The movement is getting bigger in Assam with spontaneous participation of students. Protesters have destroyed public properties. Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Naogaon are in a standstill. Chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal has tried to reassure people by saying Assam was going through one of the prolonged phases of peace and development.

( Originally published on Dec 12, 2019 )

In Video: Citizenship Amendment Bill: Why is North East protesting?

Centre taking steps to make Dibrugarh a major river port: Sarbananda Sonowal

Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday visited the site for proposed Cargo Terminal, Tourist Jetty and River Front Development projects near Bogibeel Bridge in Assam‘s Dibrugarh and held a meeting with stakeholders for fast implementation of the work.

Union Minister Sonowal stated that necessary steps are being taken to once again make Dibrugarh a major river port of the country.

“The opportunities provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in developing the NW 2 (Brahmaputra) and NW 16 (Barak) is leveraging our connectivity with Bangladesh and giving us the route to reach markets of the world. We are hence establishing MMLPs and developing river ports in various parts of Assam. In Dibrugarh, a port for cargo and passengers will be built,” the Minister said.

Union Minister further added that the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, the Inland Water Transport Department of Assam Government and North East Frontier Railway are working together to develop the area near the Bogibeel Bridge.

“PM Narendra Modi ji’s Act East Policy has transformed the North East into a connectivity hub. Led by the PM GatiShakti – National Master Plan, an integrated plan for speeding up cargo movement on the river Brahmaputra is being envisaged. It will open up employment avenues and provide global market access to local products,” the Union Minister said.

He also spoke on how improved connectivity is bringing sea change in the lives of the people, giving youths and businesses of the region a chance to reach out to domestic as well as international markets, realising the ideal of Local for Global.

A major river port in colonial times, Dibrugarh was an important contributor to India’s economic growth.

Oil India Limited’s Baghjan well fire on for 50 days, likely to be doused by Friday

Guwahati/Dibrugarh: Energy major Oil India Limited (OIL) on Wednesday said the blaze at the damaged Baghjan gas well in Assam has continued unabated for 50 days and the final push to extinguish the fire will begin soon.

A senior official of the PSU told PTI that the fire is expected to be doused by Friday.

Major debris from the well plinth area has been cleared and a detailed inspection was undertaken jointly by experts from OIL, ONGC and Singapore’s Alert Disaster Control to decide the next course of action.

“The main operation for capping and killing the well is yet to begin. The well continues to be on fire,” the oil exploration major said on its official Twitter handle.

Describing a report published in an English daily that the fire has been extinguished as “factually incorrect”, the company said the debris has been removed from the well site and preparations are on for the well capping operation.

Well number 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district has been spewing gas uncontrollably since May 27 and it caught fire on June 9, killing two firefighters of the OIL at the site.

Giving an update of its efforts to put out the massive flame, the OIL said, “Equipment being placed at Kill Pump area at the site… activities are on for carrying out the well capping and killing operation.”

Later, the company said in a statement that the water reservoirs are being filled up periodically and three heavy duty pumps of the ONGC and OIL are ready for use.

Meanwhile, protests and blockades were being staged by locals leading to heavy production loss in the last few months, the company said.

“Blockade still continues at Baghjan EPS. Due to the blockade, four gas wells and eight oil wells under Baghjan EPS had to be shut since July 7. As a result, approximately 1.5- 1.6 MMSCMD gas has gone out from the grid, which ultimately led to curtailment of gas supply to all consumers,” the statement said.

The OIL said there was a production loss of 441 MT of crude oil and 1.34 MMSCM of natural gas on Tuesday because of disruptions in 11 oil wells and four gas wells due to blockades.

“Cumulative production loss since May 27, 2020, due to bandhs and blockades: 12,657 MT crude oil, 23.38 MMSCM of natural gas,” the release said.

The PSU said various assessments and impact studies of the blowout as well as the blaze in villages and nearby forest areas by multiple agencies such as ERM India, TERI and CSIR-NEIST are going on at present.

About the relief and rehabilitation process, it said surveys for assessment of damage for compensation by the district administration are in progress in both Tinsukia and Doomdooma circles.

“Total number of families surveyed till July 14 in both Tinsukia and Doomdooma circles is 1,491,” it added.

Over 9,000 people were initially shifted to 13 relief camps after the well suffered a blowout in May and subsequently caught fire last month.

Citizenship Amendment Bill: Why Assam is protesting?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) saw protests in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur this January, but the protests shifted to Assam when Parliament took it up again. ET explains why it has rekindled the anti-foreigner sentiment of the 1980s.

  1. Why is there a bitter protest in Assam?
    Except in Bengali speakers’ dominated Barak valley, people in other parts fear CAB will lead to lakhs of Hindus from Bangladesh swamping indigenous communities, burdening resources and threatening their language, culture and tradition. CAB has a 2014 cut-off date but protesters say Assam bore the brunt of immigrants from 1951 to 1971, while other states did not, and it is unfair to impose more on the state. Protesters say they do not trust the Centre and CAB will undo the Assam Accord.
  2. What is the Assam Accord?
    People noticed an unusual rise in voters for the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha bypoll in 1979, and suspected it was due to influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. It led to a massive and violent agitation in which 885 people were killed over six years. The stir ended after the Centre signed the Assam Accord in 1985. The accord put the date of detection and deportation of foreigners as March 25 1971. For other states, it was 1951. CAB now has a new cut-off date of 2014. Protesters say it, hence, violates the accord.
  3. What is NRC?
    The National Registry of Citizens was a promise made in the Assam Accord to identify and deport foreigners. By the time it was published, it became evident that majority of those denied citizenship were Hindus or indigenous tribes. Protesters say CAB will make NRC redundant and bestow citizenship on illegal immigrants. However, the Asom Gana Parishad says Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will insulate Assam from CAB’s adverse impact.
  4. What is Clause 6 of the Assam Accord?
    Clause 6 of Assam accord relates to constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  5. What is Inner Line Permit?
    The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is a system introduced for border areas by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. People outside such declared areas can visit the places only if they have a permit. They cannot settle in such areas even with ILP. The system is now being used to protect certain areas from the purview of CAB. Places notified for protecting tribes under Sixth Schedule Areas of the Constitution too have been placed outside CAB’s purview. ILP is applicable to most areas of other NE states. In Assam, Karbi Anglong, Dima Haso and Bodoland are protected under the Sixth Schedule. They, however, make only seven out of 33 Assam districts.
  6. Why has the epicentre of protest against CAB shifted to Assam?
    Home minister Amit Shah had reached out to political parties, organisations and NE CMs while redrafting CAB. The assurance that CAB will not hit ILP and Schedule VI areas worked. There is ILP in Nagaland (with the inclusion of Dimapur this week), Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Mizoram. Meghalaya is on the verge of getting ILP
  7. How strong is the protest in Assam?
    The movement is getting bigger in Assam with spontaneous participation of students. Protesters have destroyed public properties. Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Naogaon are in a standstill. Chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal has tried to reassure people by saying Assam was going through one of the prolonged phases of peace and development.

( Originally published on Dec 12, 2019 )

In Video: Citizenship Amendment Bill: Why is North East protesting?