Police ask Assam opposition parties to withdraw stir against CAA, warn of action

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Assam police

Guwahati: The Assam Police have issued notices to opposition parties "ordering" them to "withdraw" the hartal over the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and warned that "legal action" will be taken against them if they fail to follow the diktat.

Opposition leaders described the notice as "dictatorial" and an attempt to stifle their democratic right to protest.

The 16-party United Opposition Forum, Assam (UOFA) has called a statewide 12-hour hartal on Tuesday to protest against the implementation of the CAA.

The Congress said it will seek police protection so that the party's "peaceful protests" remain so, as it apprehends that its programmes might be disrupted by certain quarters with vested interests.

"As a result of the 'Sarbatmak Hartal', there is every likelihood of breach of peace and security leading to disruption of normal life of peace-loving citizens in the state," read the identical legal notices, dated March 11, sent to the office-bearers of various parties by the police.

Blocking highways and railway tracks was declared illegal and unconstitutional by various judgements of the Supreme Court and the high courts of Kerala and Gauhati.

The notices "ordered" the parties to withdraw the hartal and co-operate in maintaining peace in the state, failing which legal action will be initiated "against you and the total cost of damage to public and private properties will be recovered from you and your organisation".

Responding to the notice, Assam Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah said that the notice is an ''unjustified attempt to stifle our constitutional and democratic right to protest".

He also claimed that the police had misinterpreted the scope of the judgements quoted as the Kerala High Court distinguished between a 'bandh' and a 'hartal' and did not prohibit 'hartals' while the Gauhati High Court had mandated monitoring of illegal bandhs, including road and rail blockade, with required action for any non-compliance but did not restrict the scope for peaceful protests or 'hartals'.

''We vehemently protest your characterising and anticipating that our peaceful protest will lead to a breach of peace and security. In fact, we seek police protection to ensure that no miscreants and parties inimical to us disrupt our peaceful protest," Borah said.

The Congress leader further said that they will approach the Gauhati High Court if the police fail to provide security.

Raijor Dal president and MLA Akhil Gogoi said that the notice issued ordered him and the "United Opposition Forum" to withdraw the "Sarbatmak Hartal".

''Such undemocratic and dictatorial steps of the government sets a bad precedent against the upholding of democratic culture in India'', he said.

UOFA general secretary and president of Assam Jatiya Parishad Lurinjyoti Gogoi said that the constitution has given citizens the right to protest.

''The Supreme Court in a recent order had expressed the view that protests are not an anti-national act. We are a democratic party with a firm belief in the law of the land and we have the right to protest against any issue in a democratic and peaceful manner,'' Gogoi said.

He further claimed that the CAA is a threat to the language, culture, social fabric and identity of the Assamese which ''is unacceptable and we will have to protest against it in a peaceful manner. The notices issued by the police were shared by Director-General of Police GP Singh on social media.

In a post on X, he said that the notices were served by the police to ensure there is no damage to public property and risk to the lives of the people by any agitation in the state.