Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests: Toll in Guwahati police firing rises to four; internet suspended in parts of West Bengal

  • Internet services were suspended on Sunday in West Bengal’s in Malda, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and parts of South 24 Parganas districts

  • Curfew was relaxed in Assam’s Guwahati from 9 am till 6 pm and in parts of Dibrugarh district from 7 am till 4 pm

  • The Meghalaya Assembly will be holding a special session on 19 December to allow the government to pass a resolution to demand the implementation of Inner Line Permit

Even as the situation in the northeastern states, which saw violent protests against the recently-amended Citizenship Act, improved on Sunday, West Bengal remained on the boil for the third consecutive day.

The toll in police firing on protesters in Guwahati rose to four with two more succumbing to their injuries at the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). The two men were among 27 injured protesters who were admitted to the GMCH. Another casualty was reported on Friday when an oil tanker was set ablaze in Sonitpur district, killing its driver.

Internet services suspended in parts of West Bengal

Internet services were suspended on Sunday in West Bengal’s Malda, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and parts of South 24 Parganas districts to prevent rumour-mongering and circulation of fake news, especially on social media.

Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from Nadia, Birbhum, North 24 Parganas and Howrah districts of the state on Sunday. In Amdanga and Kalyani areas of North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts, agitators blocked various thoroughfares, set fire to wooden logs on the streets. Shops were also ransacked and tyres burnt in Deganga area of North 24 Parganas.

 Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests: Toll in Guwahati police firing rises to four; internet suspended in parts of West Bengal

Police personnel attempt to disperse protestors during a demonstration against the passing of Citizenship Act at Santragachi in Howrah district. PTI

In Nadia, demonstrators blocked Kalyani Express Highway, some of them burning copies of the amended Act. Similar protests were reported from Domjur area of Howrah district, parts of Burdwan and Birbhum, with agitators taking out rallies and shouting slogans against the Narendra Modi government. Police contingents have been rushed to the troubled areas to control the situation. Train rans smoothly in the Howrah-Sealdah and Kharagpur sections, according to PTI.

Three railway stations were set on fire on Saturday and at least 25 buses and a toll booth were torched. The state’s BJP delegation, led by party state general secretary Biswapriya Roy Chowdhury, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of the law and order situation in West Bengal.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed for peace and warned of stern action against those indulging in violence, even as members of her party Trinamool Congress took out rallies across the state, protesting against the law. Banerjee, too, will hit the streets from Monday in protest against the law and will address the issues surrounding the contentious Act.

Curfew relaxed in Assam, toll reaches four

Curfew was relaxed in Assam’s Guwahati from 9 am till 6 pm and in parts of Dibrugarh district from 7 am till 4 pm. Curfew was relaxed in Dibrugarh west, Naharkatia, Tenughat and some other places in the district from 7 am to 4 pm. Long queues were seen outside shops at several places, including Dispur, Uzan Bazar, Chandmari, Silpukhuri and Zoo Road in Guwahati town. Auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws were plying across the city. Petrol pumps in the city also opened with vehicles waiting in lines to refuel.

Meanwhile, the North East Frontier Railway that many trains have been cancelled/diverted/short terminated due to the protests —

Internet services will remain suspended till Monday morning in 10 districts of Assam, including Lakhimpur, Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup. Additionally, employees of the Assam government are set to cease work on 18 December in protest against the law.

Assam Director General of Police (DGP) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said 85 people have been arrested till Saturday in connection with violent incidents during protests against the amended Citizenship Act. "Incidents of stone-pelting, setting vehicles on fire and attacking life and property have been videographed. We will identify the persons involved and take action against them," the DGP told PTI.

Among those arrested is activist Akhil Gogoi, who was picked up Assam Police on Thursday. He was booked by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), according to a top police officer, and likely to be taken out of Assam soon, Hindustan Times reported.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which has been protesting the amended Citizenship Act, also hinted at launching a political party along with 'Shilpi Samaj' (artists' forum) as an alternative to the ruling BJP and AGP as well as to opposition Congress. When popular singer Zubeen Garg, addressing a protest meet 'Concert for Peace and Harmony' in Guwahati, said, "we will launch our own party", AASU president Dipanka Nath seconded him saying, "we are now thinking in that direction".

Meanwhile, Palash Sangmai of AJYCP told The Wire, "On 16 and 17 December, we will sit on a 36-hour hunger strike. On 18 December, there will be a gaon sabha on how CAA will destroy Assamese culture. On 24 December there will be a statewide, massive protest. We will go to Delhi and take the legal course as well."

The protests led to the cancellation of a summit scheduled to be held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Guwahati on 15 and 16 December. The UGC NET exam to be held on Sunday in Assam and Meghalaya was also postponed.

The protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have led to a sharp rise in the price of food items, The Times of India reported. Onions were sold for Rs 250 a kilo in markets in the city, while potatoes sold for Rs 60 a kilo. Lean chicken was sold at Rs 500 a kilo and rohu fish at Rs 420 a kilo. In some pockets of Guwahati, ATMs ran out of money and State Bank of India brought out a mobile ATM to help cash-strapped customers.

SMS, mobile internet withdrawn in Meghalaya till Monday

Curfew was also relaxed in some areas of Meghalaya’s Shillong from 6 am till 7 pm. The curfew was relaxed for 13 hours in areas under the jurisdictions of Sadar and Lumdiengiri police station areas.

SMS and mobile internet services have been withdrawn for 48 hours since 5 pm on Saturday, an official told PTI. Banks and educational institutions have been shut since 11 December and the North Eastern Hill University has also postponed all examinations to February 2020.

The Meghalaya Assembly will be holding a special one-day session on 19 December to allow the government to pass a resolution to demand the implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the state. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma also met Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday and demanded the implementation of ILP in the state. An official of the Chief Minister's Office said Shah was "very receptive" to all the issued raised.

Celebrities take pledge to boycott execution of Citizenship Amendment Act

Several activists and celebrities took a pledge on Sunday not to support the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

"We believe Citizenship Amendment Bill is discriminatory and it violates the constitutional values. We don''t accept this bill and if it becomes a law we will boycott its execution. We pledge not to submit any documents if asked to prove our citizenship," veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said in a video.

 

Batch of petitions against contentious law filed before SC

A batch of petitions was filed before the Supreme Court seeking that the law be withdrawn. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi on Saturday filed a petition before the Supreme Court stating that the present Citizenship Amendment Act "miserably fails" on the touchstone of Article 14.

Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) , an ally of the ruling BJP, said it would file a petition in the Supreme Court praying for revocation of the amended act, party leader Kumar Deepak Das said. Assam Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia, lawmakers from Assam Abdul Khaleque and Rupjyoti Kurmi, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, two NGOs, Uttar Pradesh's Peace Party, among others are the other petitioners.

Jamia Millia Islamia cancels exams

Protests were also witnessed at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, where students from northeastern states protested against the amended Citizenship Act, terming it "anti-Constitution" and a threat to the spirit of the Assam Accord of 1985.

Scores of students from the Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia university staged a protest against the Citizenship Act, 2019 on Saturday, leaving as many as 12 cops injured and leading to the detention of 50 protesters.

However, a day later, a member of the university’s administration said that a large number of locals participated in the protest and it was not held in the varsity campus. "All examinations have been postponed. New dates to be announced in due course of time. Winter vacation declared from 16 December, 2019, to 5 January, 2020. University to open on 6 January 2020," read a release from the university on Saturday.

Amid protests in the North East, the US, UK, France, Canada and Israel issued travel advisories asking their citizens to "exercise caution" while travelling to the region. University of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh has issued a circular to the women residents of the university hostel not to participate in any “dharna or protest”, citing security concerns. A circular was issued by the proctor and campus in-charge (women hostel) of the university Dr Saroj Yadav on 13 December.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Dec 15, 2019 18:35:24 IST