GUWAHATI: Assam government imposes Section 144 and cracks down on students and activists to still protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,2016.

The protests engulfed the state, followed by a strike covering the North East region, with BJP ally Asom Gana Parishad pulling out of the government.

Students to senior citizens have all hit the streets in protest, shouting anti-government slogans.

The protests have escalated after the Assam police, under directions, decided to register suomoti cases against three front runners of the agitation – prominent author and former Gauhati University professor Hiren Gohain, peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi and journalist cum activist Manjit Mahanta.

The three along with other professionals and activists have been vocal against the Bill under which non-Muslim migrants from the neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are entitled to Indian citizenship.

The three are members of a civil society group ‘Nagarik Samaj’ which recently organized a massive protest rally in Guwahati against the bill.

Guwahati Police commissioner Deepak Kumar said that they have registered a case under sections 120 (B) and 124 (A) among others at the Latasil Police station.

Kumar said that the meeting which they organized was without permission.

Meanwhile, former DGP Harekrishna Deka who was also present during the said rally said that it is a desperate act and misuse of the provision of law.

Section 124-A in the Indian Penal Code, named 'Sedition', explains sedition in wide and magnanimous terms.

It says 'Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India' shall be punished with life imprisonment

It also says that comments that express strong disapproval of 'the measures of the Government, with a view to obtain their desired modifications by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offense under this section.'

According to the section 124-A, comments expressing strong disapproval of the 'administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offense under this section.

“Dr Hiren Gohain's speech has been recorded and it is clear that it does not even remotely attract the provisions of section 124-A,” said Deka.

Hiren Gohain said that he never mentioned ‘Freedom for Assam’ in they way he is being charged.

“As far as my knowledge goes, there was a joint rally organized by Forum against Citizenship Amendment Bill and Left Democratic Front on January 7. Some younger elements in the rally in their indignation on the attitude of the government, mentioned the relevance of freedom of Assam. I intervened to state that such a demand can have relevance only if and when all democratic resources have been exhausted. And if and the state and all the democratic parties and organizations of India reject the legitimate demands of the people of Assam. I had elaborated my stand further… by fighting for the secular basis of the citizenship in India and the dignity and rights of Assam in federal polity,” Gohain said.

He further said that they are fighting for the fundamental democratic state of India and the constitution.

Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) advisor Akhil Gogoi said that the government is trying to create a situation like emergency.

“The government must be thinking that if Hiren Gohain or Akhil Gogoi is arrested, the agitation will come to a halt. But their calculation is wrong. If the government tries to dominate us like this way, the agitation will grow stronger and deeper with the participation of more number of people. I don’t mind being arrested as we have already alerted the people of the state. The agitation will continue now,” Gogoi said.

He also said that they will continue to oppose to the bill and will stop only when the will be scraped.

“If police comes to arrest me, I will go smiling and I would appeal to the people of the state to come out in the street in thousands to give a strong message,” Gogoi added.

People in large numbers have thronged in the residence of Hiren Gohain after the news broke. Students created human chain in front of his residence.

“We are in solidarity with Dr Hiren Gohain Sir! This Fascist Government has slapped sedition charges against sir. But the fascist schemes of this anti-people Government will be resisted at any cost,” said Madhurjya Baruah, an activist.

Meanwhile, police have imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in many areas of Guwahati fearing the ongoing protests against the bill.

The groups and organizations have opposed the bill because it conflicts with the Assam Accord which accepts March 25, 1971 as cut off date to identify and deport illegal citizens irrespective of religion, caste and creed.

Assam Accord was signed in 1985 after a six-year long agitation to drive out illegal foreigners from Assam.