Anti-Citizenship Act protests: Toll rises to six in Assam; protesters block roads, railway tracks, torch vehicles in West Bengal

  • Protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act continued Saturday in various parts of the country, including in Assam, West Bengal, Delhi and Mumbai

  • The death toll in the protests has risen to six, with a protester succumbing to bullet injuries sustained during police firing on 12 December in Guwahati

  • In Assam, peaceful protests continued in Guwahati even as curfew was briefly lifted

The death toll in the protests against the Citizenship Act in Assam has risen to six, with a protester succumbing to bullet injuries sustained during police firing on 12 December in Guwahati, News18 reported. Two people had died on the same day, soon after the firing incident.

Among the deceased was 17-year-old Sam Stafford, who died in the firing incident, when he was returning from Latasil playground, where noted singer Zubeen Garg performed in solidarity with protesters against the Citizenship Act, PTI reported.

An oil tanker driver was killed and his vehicle set ablaze in Assam's Sonitpur district as protests became increasingly violent on Saturday amid a rail blockade, sit-ins and hunger strikes by different organisations across the state, officials said. The driver of the tanker, who was admitted to a hospital, succumbed to his injuries on Saturday morning. According to a report in India Today, areas such as Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Jorhat in the upper Assam region remained on edge with some cases of violence reported from there.

Guwahati, which has witnessed heated protests and clashes over the past four days, returned to normalcy on Saturday, even as curfew was lifted for some time in Guwahati and in Dibrugarh. Protests continued peacefully with the All Assam Students Union, which is spearheading the agitation, continuing its meetings along with Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and 30 other indigenous organisations in the Brahmaputra Valley.

The curfew was relaxed in Guwahati from 9 am to 4 pm and in Dibrugarh from 8 am to 2 pm on Saturday, officials told PTI. Guwahati saw a return to normalcy with long queues outside shops, vehicles plying on the streets and petrol pumps re-opening. Schools and colleges, however remained shut.

AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said protests will continue everyday till 5 pm as the students body follows Mahatma Gandhi's ideal of non-violence. Students of the College of Veterinary Science joined the hunger strike.

Meanwhile, authorities extended suspension of internet services till Monday. 'Services have been suspended as social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and You Tube, etc are likely to be used for spreading of rumours and also for transmission of information like pictures, videos and texts that have the potential to inflame passions and does exacerbate the law and order situation," Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Political Department) Sanjay Krishna told PTI. 

Train services between Guwahati and the rest of the country were disrupted in a rail blockade called by the AJYCP, which is demanding the implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the state. A NF Railway spokesman said that all trains to upper Assam districts have been terminated in Guwahati while all long distance trains leaving it will resume their onward journey after the blockade is lifted by 5 pm.

Government employees in Assam announced that they will observe a cease work on 18 December to register their opposition to the Act.  "We have opposed the Bill since the beginning and will continue to do so till the Act is revoked," Sadou Asam Karmachari Parishad (SAKP) President Basab Kalita told PTI.

Curfew was also relaxed in Shillong during the day as the law and order situation improved. The regulation had been imposed in parts of the city amid violent protests against the amended Citizenship Act, officials said.

West Bengal sees violence

West Bengal was rocked by violent protests for the second consecutive day on Saturday as a number of trains, railways stations and tracks were torched, buses were set ablaze and property damaged even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged protesters not to resort to violence and take the law into their hands. She also assured the protesters that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the CAA will not be implemented in the state.

WB CM Mamata Banerjee:I request everyone to not create any disturbance or involve in any kind of violence. Be sure that #CitizenshipAmendmentAct&National Register of Citizens (NRC) will not be implemented in Bengal as we won't allow it. Please don't block roads&take law in hands. pic.twitter.com/upN2ONMiey

— ANI (@ANI) December 14, 2019

 

At Krishnapur station in Murshidabad district, a number of empty trains were set on fire. Lalgola station was ransacked and its railway tracks set ablaze. The agitators vandalised Sujnipara station — also in Murshidabad district — and set fire to railway tracks at Harishchandrapur station in neighbouring Malda.

 Anti-Citizenship Act protests: Toll rises to six in Assam; protesters block roads, railway tracks, torch vehicles in West Bengal

Protesters demand the repeal of Citizenship Amendment Act at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. PTI

Earlier in the day, angry protesters torched around 15 buses, both public and private, and blocked traffic on the arterial Kona Expressway in Howrah which connects both NH6 (Mumbai Road) and NH2 (Delhi Road) to Kolkata, the police said. Traffic movement along the expressway came to a standstill, they said.

In Murshidabad, protesters blocked several roads, including the National Highway 34, one of the main roads that connect north and south Bengal. Buses were also set on fire along the highway, the police said.

In Howrah district's Domjur area, the National Highway 6 was blocked as protesters set tyres ablaze and ransacked several vehicles, the police said. A huge police contingent was at the spot to control the situation, they added.

Since last night, 20 shops have been set on fire in Bagnan area of Rural Howrah, an official said. In Howrah district, protesters set fire to a portion of the Sankrail Railway Station complex on Saturday afternoon and also thrashed Railway Police Force personnel.

Train movements were also blocked in the Sealdah-Hasnabad section of the Eastern Railway after agitators staged sit-ins on the tracks at Shondaliya and Kakra Mirzapur stations of the section, a railway spokesperson said.

Train services ground to a halt in the Howrah-Kharagpur section of the South Eastern Railway since 11 am, as protesters sat on the tracks at Sankrail, Nalpur, Mourigram and Bakranawabaz stations, zonal spokesperson Sanjoy Ghosh told PTI.

Twenty trains, including eight express trains, have been stopped at various stations in the South Eastern zone, while several have been cancelled a railway official told PTI.  The cancelled trains are 12847/12848 Howrah-Digha AC Exp, 12222 Howrah-Pune Duronto Exp, 120889 Howrah-Tirupati Humsafar Exp, 12860 Howrah-CSMT Geetanjali Exp, 22877 Howrah- Ernakulam Antodaya Exp and 22897/22898 Howrah-Digha-Howrah Kandari Exp.

The 12841 Coromondal Exp from Howrah, 12245 Howrah- Yesvantpur Duronto Exp, 18645 Howrah-Hyderabad East Coast Express have also been cancelled. Puri-Digha Express, Puri-Santragachhi Passenger from Puri on December 15 have also been cancelled, a statement said. Some trains were also short terminated.

Meghalaya, Nagaland affected

The Meghalaya government has decided to convene a special one-day session of the Assembly to bring in a resolution to implement the Inner Line Permit regime in the state, reported PTI.

Following a six-hour shutdown call given by the Naga Students' Federation (NSF), schools and colleges were closed, markets were shut and vehicles remained largely off roads in parts of Nagaland on Saturday. No untoward incident has been reported so far from the Naga inhabited areas where the shutdown began at 6 am and ended at 12 pm, officials told PTI.

"The bandh has been called to express the resentment of the Naga people against the passing of the contentious CAB in the Parliament, much against the interests and the sentiments of the indigenous people in the North East states," said a statement released by the NSF on Friday.

 Vehicles torched by protestors agitating against the passing of Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB)at Sanmtragachi in Howrah district of West Bengal. PTI

Vehicles torched by protesters at Sanmtragachi in Howrah district of West Bengal. PTI

As per the instructions in the statement, students appearing for examinations, medical staff on duty, media personnel, and those having weddings were being allowed on roads by the protesters. State capital Kohima also wore a deserted look with most of the commercial establishments not opening due to the shutdown.

NSF vice president Dievi Yano condemned the Citizenship Amendment Act, saying it did not take into account the sentiments of the indigenous people of the North East. "The NSF totally resents the injustice done by the Central government and we will never support the amended Citizenship Act, which is the latest weapon of the Centre to divide the northeastern people on concessional lines," he said.

"The NSF does not believe in classification of illegal immigrants on religious lines as the NSF regards all illegal immigrants as criminals and they must be treated accordingly," he said.

The NSF also condemned the three Naga MPs — Tokheho Yepthomi (Lok Sabha) and KG Kenye (Rajya Sabha) from Nagaland and Lorho S Pfoze (Lok Sabha) from —  for voting in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The NSF said that along with the North East Students Organisation (NESO) it would take all necessary measures to ensure that the law does not take effect in the region.

Protests in Delhi, Mumbai

In Delhi, hundreds of protesters gathered at Jantar Mantar, prompting the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to close the gates of the Janpath and Jamia Millia Islamia stations.

"We are fighting over the issue of foreigners (settling down in Assam) for the last many years and now with this act, the situation will worsen. If we gave shelter to more foreigners, Assamese citizens will suffer," one protester told PTI.

In Mumbai, a group of residents who hail from Assam held a protest march at the Azad Maidan. The participants carried placards, banners and handbills with messages `Say No to CAB', 'We oppose CAA' and 'Withdraw CAA, Save Assam'.

In Uttar Pradesh, students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) continued to protest inside the campus amid heavy police deployment. Heavy police patrolling is underway at the university circle and other entry points of the AMU campus as a precautionary measure, police said. Annual examinations are continuing as per schedule and the district authorities and the AMU administration are maintaining strict vigil, AMU spokesman Dr Rahat Abrar told PTI. 

The legislation, which grants citizenship to immigrants of six religious groups (excluding Muslims) facing persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has put the northeast on the boil as people fear that it may exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration.  Muslims across the country apprehend that the move could be a precursor to the country-wide implementation of the NRC.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 15, 2019 13:08:29 IST