The state of Manipur has been vehemently protesting against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, with curfew having being imposed in various parts of Imphal East and Imphal West districts since the morning of Tuesday, 12 February, and internet services being reportedly shut down for five days in the state.
On Sunday, six women vendors were injured in police action during a protest against the bill at a popular market in Imphal.
Despite the curfew, the protests are continuing in several parts of the two districts, with people coming out in groups shouting slogans against the BJP-led government and also blocking the road leading to the Imphal airport with burning tyres.
All important government offices, as well as residences of ministers and MLAs are being guarded with heavy police deployment. The areas around CM Biren Singh's residence and the state secretariat have been cordoned off by security forces.
Apart from the internet shutdown, cable TV channels have also been purportedly barred from covering the protests against the bill.
An order of the district magistrate of the Imphal West District, whose authenticity cannot be verified, said it prohibits "transmission or re-transmission of agitation/protest of any form, inflammatory speech and/or public discourse that may incite to violence, and/or programme which may lead to breach of public peace and tranquility in the interest of the general public."
Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day on Tuesday, following protests by Opposition parties on various issues, with the Citizenship Bill not getting tabled in the Upper House despite expectations to the contrary.
Section 144 Imposed, Women Vendors Injured in Police Action
On Monday, authorities in the state had imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC in Imphal East and Imphal West districts in view of the continued protests against the Citizenship Bill.
A day before, on Sunday, six women vendors were injured after the police used tear gas shells and mock bombs to disperse those protesting against the bill at the Ima Keithel market in Imphal, reported EastMojo. The peaceful sit-in protests by the women vendors had started on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the 36-hour shutdown called to protest against the bill had been continuing in Jiribam district, affecting normal life since 5 am on Monday.
The shutdown was called by the Peoples' Alliance Manipur (PAM), a conglomerate of several organisations.
Another group which is at the forefront of the agitation against the bill is Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MANPAC).
Bill 'Painfully Unpopular' in the Northeast
The bill, being vehemently opposed in the Northeast even by parties that are allies of the BJP, was passed in Lok Sabha on 8 January and the Centre had said it will try to get the Rajya Sabha nod in this Budget session.
The bill seeks to provide citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India, instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.
The indigenous people of the region are apprehending that if the bill is enacted, it will endanger their livelihood and identity.
On Monday, late Assamese singer-composer Bhupen Hazarika's son Tej took a swipe at the BJP and said that the proposed bill was "painfully unpopular" in the Northeast.
Tej put the government on notice over the Bharat Ratna award on Monday, saying the bill was “actually undermining” his father’s “documented position” and “would in reality be in direct opposition to what Bhupenda believed in his heart of hearts,” reported PTI.
(With inputs from Sunzu Bachaspatimayum in Manipur.)