Ahead Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to three northeastern states – Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh – several tribal parties and NGOs on Friday held a massive demonstration in Tripura demanding the withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
The protesting groups also demanded the withdrawal of sedition charges levelled by the state police against three tribal leaders.
The several hours long demonstration took place in northern Tripura’s Manughat, 100 km north of Agartala, 10 days after a huge protest rally on the same issue in Khumulwng, 20 km north of Agartala, the headquarters of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).
The agitation was spearheaded by the newly formed Movement Against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (MACAB), a conglomerate of several NGOs and four tribal outfits, including Tripura’s oldest tribal party Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT).
The North-East Students Organisation (NESO), which on January 8 called an 11-hour shutdown in the entire northeastern region excluding Sikkim to oppose the Citizenship Bill, was also part of the agitation.
NESO is an association of eight student and youth organisations from seven northeastern states.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary in-charge of Sikkim and the working President of the Tripura Pradesh Congress Committee, Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debburman, and Tripura Congress General Secretary and tribal leader Dinesh Debbarma also spoke at the demonstrations.
“The sit-in demonstration was peaceful and no untoward incident took place. Vehicular movement was normal in the Tripura-Assam National Highway (NH 8),” Dhalai district police chief Sudipta Das told IANS over telephone from the district headquarters.
NH 8 is the life line of the mountainous Tripura.
MACAB Convener Upendra Debbarma and INPT General Secretary Jagadhish Debbarma told the media that their agitation would be intensified if the government did not meet their two demands.
INPT President Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl told the gathering that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to migrants from six non-Muslim minority groups from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, when enacted into an Act, would jeopardise the demography of the indigenous people of northeast India comprising eight states.
Upendra Debbarma, who is also the Vice Chairman of NESO, said that earlier this week a 15-member delegation of NESO met Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) President Conrad Sangma, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and leaders of several parties in Delhi and Mumbai and apprised them about the issue.
“All the leaders assured us that they would be with the northeastern parties on the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,” Debbarma said.
INPT’s Jagadhish Debbarma said that Tripura police have registered a case with sedition charges against three senior tribal leaders, including him, for organising a protest rally on January 30 at the TTAADC headquarters in Khumulwng against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
The agitating tribal leaders also indicated that a few tribal organisations might resort to agitation on Saturday during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state.
During his visit, Modi would unveil a statue of Tripura’s late king Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya at the airport, inaugurate an extended railway line and open an academic building of the Tripura Institute of Technology run by the state government.
Elaborate security arrangements have been for the Prime Minister’s visit.