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Curfew in Imphal, Mizoram thumbs nose at Centre as anti-Citizenship Bill protests rage

English NewsCurfew in Imphal, Mizoram thumbs nose at Centre as anti-Citizenship Bill protests rage

Authorities in Imphal clamped curfew after sporadic violence erupted in Manipur on Tuesday amid a state-wide shutdown called by civil society groups as protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill continued while in Mizoram several organizations observed a ‘black day’ with agitators came out on the streets with placards saying ‘Hello Independent Republic of Mizoram’.

The proposed amendment which would relax citizenship eligibility criteria for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Christians and Buddhists who have come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh for reasons of religious persecution could not be tabled in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday as the House was adjourned. The contentious Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last month.

“Curfew has been imposed in Imphal area, in the twin districts of Imphal (East) and Imphal (West) and the agitation continues,” said LM Khaute, Manipur’s Director General of Police.

Khaute said there were some cases of violence as protestors took to the streets. Mobile internet services, too, have been suspended in the state. The district administration of Imphal (West) issued orders prohibiting transmission of agitations and protests.

The police chief said the situation will be reviewed before further decision is taken. “We are making all efforts to ensure peace prevails,” Khaute said.

In Imphal, a few protestors stripped naked in front of the state BJP office.

In Thoubal district, one of the BJP offices which runs out of premises owned by MLA Paonam Brojen Singh was ransacked by agitators, police officials said.

The state wide 36-hour shutdown called by People’s Alliance Manipur (PAM) which was to end at 5 pm on Tuesday has been extended by 24 hours.

“As the bill was not tabled today, it has been decided to extend it,” said Bhushan Longjam, General Secretary, Socialist Students Union of Manipur, a part of PAM.

Last month, the BJP-led government in Manipur had urged the Centre to exempt the state from the jurisdiction of the Bill.

Meanwhile, in Mizoram, the powerful civil society groups under the umbrella of NGO coordination committee, observed a black day. Agitators including former chief minister Lalthanhawla were seen with black flags and placards reading ‘Hello Independent Republic of Mizoram.’

“The Bill is not in the interests of the people of northeast,” he said. “If the Centre continues like this without listening to the people we may be driven to the extreme,” he said. “Why would they want to drive us to that extreme?” he asked referring to the placards.

Earlier, agitators had come out with placards reading ‘Hello China’. “It signifies our demands and feeling are not been heard by the Government of India,” said Lalmachhuana, secretary of the NGO coordination committee which comprises of organisations including the Central Young Mizo Association. “Under the GoI, the sentiments of Mizos are not being heard. We need a separate government,” he said.

Protests have roiled much of the Northeast since the government made its intentions clear of going ahead with the Citizenship Bill. In BJP-ruled Assam, the saffron party’s coalition partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) recently quit the government in protest.

On Monday, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu changed his stance on the Citizenship Bill and asked Union home minister Rajnath Singh not to table the bill in the Rajya Sabha.

Last week, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma said his National People’s Party would quit the NDA if the Bill is not scrapped.

In a meeting on January 29, ten regional outfits including allies of the BJP, the National Peoples’ Party (NPP), in Meghalaya, the Mizo National Front (MNF) in Mizoram, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) among others had passed a resolution opposing the bill

The Nagaland cabinet has also rejected the Bill following pressure from various tribal organisations and students bodies.

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