"North East Is Different": Assam, Tripura Protesters After Supreme Court Hears CAA Petitions

The Supreme Court's observation came on a day when students across 10 North East universities protested by shutting down classes for 24 hours

Violent protests have broken out in Assam and Tripura over the citizenship law

Guwahati/New Delhi:

Hours after the Supreme Court, while hearing a whopping 140 petitions on the controversial citizenship law, decided to combine petitions from Assam and Tripura and hear them together, groups protesting the law claimed the move a moral victory, of sorts. One of the petitions, Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman, the royal scion of Tripura, said the court had been told that the North East was "different" from the rest of the country and provided with evidence of cross-border infiltration.

"The matter of Assam and Tripura has been segregated from the rest of the country... North East India is different from the rest of the country. We have given evidence of cross-border infiltration that has been taking place," Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman said, adding, "They will look into Assam and Tripura separately".

Earlier today the top court refused to put on hold the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, which is at the core of nationwide protests. The court gave the centre four weeks to respond to petitions, saying it would not grant a stay without hearing the government.

The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde also said petitions linked to Assam and Tripura would be heard separately, as the problem with the CAA in these states was different from that in the rest of the country.

The Supreme Court's observation came on a day when students across 10 North East universities protested by shutting down classes for 24 hours.

"Students are giving exams and also protesting... this is to register two things. One - at no cost we will accept CAA. Two - we have huge faith in the Supreme Court," Hirak Jyoti Bora, a protesting student from the prestigious Cotton University in Assam's Guwahati, said.

The citizenship law, which grants Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees fleeing religious persecution from three Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries, is seen by activists across the rest of the country as discriminating against Muslims and, consequently, as violating secular tenets of the Constitution.

However, in Assam and parts of the North East it is seen as something that allows foreign migrants to settle in the region, triggering fears of an influx of Bangladeshi refugees.

"We have been protesting for months now... but the government is unrelenting. We have no choice... this law is against our land, our people and our culture. Our hope rests with the Supreme Court... the most unbiased institution," Wahidur Rehman, another Cotton University student, said.

The large number of petitions that have been filed against this contentious law has been seized upon as evidence that the BJP, which is in power in both Assam and at the centre, does not want to listen to the people, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

"The matter is so serious... we have so many petitions. Never before have we heard or seen so large a number of petitions filed before the Supreme Court... from almost every state. The BJP is adamant that they don't want to listen to the voices of the people," Mr Gogoi, who is also one of the petitioners, said

Meanwhile, one of the most vocal voices in Assam BJP - cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma chose not to speak about the top court's decision.

"Hearing will keep happening at Supreme Court... verdict will come one day but why should politicians comment on that?" he asked.

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