Protests over Citizenship Act reach West Bengal; agitators demanding revocation of law vandalise railway stations, block roads

  • People in the minority-dominated districts of rural Howrah, Murshidabad, Birbhum, parts of Burdwan and North Bengal hit the streets in the morning, raising slogans against the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre

  • Some of them even attacked local BJP workers and leaders, prompting the saffron camp to allege that the attacks were masterminded by the ruling TMC

  • West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to people to maintain peace and calm and urged the protesters to refrain from taking the law into own hands

Kolkata: Protests over the amended Citizenship Act reached the shores of West Bengal on Friday, with agitators resorting to violence and arson at railway stations and thoroughfares across the state, seeking immediate revocation of the law.

According to police sources, people in the minority-dominated districts of rural Howrah, Murshidabad, Birbhum, parts of Burdwan and North Bengal hit the streets in the morning, raising slogans against the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre.

Some of them even attacked local BJP workers and leaders, prompting the saffron camp to allege that the attacks were masterminded by the ruling TMC.

 Protests over Citizenship Act reach West Bengal; agitators demanding revocation of law vandalise railway stations, block roads

Muslims take part in a protest rally against CAB and NRC in Kolkata. PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to people to maintain peace and calm and urged the protesters to refrain from taking the law into own hands.

Similar pleas were also made by Governor Jagdeep Dhakhar, who requested people not to violate law and order.

In Murshidabad district, bordering Bangladesh, protesters set fire to Beldanga railway station complex and thrashed RPF personnel deputed there.

"Several parts of the station, RPF kiosks were set on fire and the tracks vandalised. Services have come to a halt here," a senior RPF official said.

In Raghunathganj area of the district, the agitators set vehicles on fire and tore copies of the amended Act. They blocked National Highway-34 and ransacked vehicles and nearby shops. Several people were injured when their vehicles were pelted with stones.

A huge police contingent was rushed to both Beldanga and Raghunathganj to control the situation.

The police had to resort to lathicharge in Beldanga area to disperse the mob.

Similar incidents were also reported from Uluberia and Diamond Harbour, both minority-dominated areas, as agitators blocked railway tracks and vandalised stations, leaving several passengers stranded during the day.

The affected trains included the 12841 Howrah-Chennai Coromandel Express, 22897 Howrah-Digha Kandari Express and suburban locals.

The demonstrators, numbering around 250, obstructed the Up and Down lines at Uluberia station and hurled stones at the stranded trains, injuring a driver, South Eastern Railway spokesman Sanjoy Ghosh said.

The railways have sought adequate forces from the state government to protect the station premises in violence-hit areas of the state.

The anti-Citizenship Act demonstrators also blocked NH-6 and burned tyres and tubes at Uluberia.

With national flags in hands, they gathered at the Uluberia checkpost around 2.30 pm and blocked the highway, one of the arterial roads that connect Kolkata with the rest of the country.

Idris Ali, TMC MLA from Uluberia, said he was visiting Kolkata for medical reasons and would take stock of the situation on his return.

"We do not want India to be divided; we want to protect the Constitution. We are in favour of a secular West Bengal and against the amended Citizenship Act and NRC," said Maulana Ghulam Mustafa of the local Boro Masjid, who was leading the agitation in the area.

In Kolkata, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Park Circus seven-point crossing, seeking the revocation of the law. They shouted slogans against the BJP-led government and burnt tyres on the thoroughfare, leading to traffic congestions in the southern and the central parts of the city.

In Kharagpur section, too, railway tracks were blocked, affecting long-distance train services.

Protesters poured out on the streets in Birbhum and East Midnapore, and shouted slogans against the BJP, demanding that the amended Act be immediately scrapped.

West Bengal BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu's car was attacked by the trouble-mongers in Kanthi area of East Midnapore district.

According to local sources, Basu, somehow, managed to drive past the area.

President Ram Nath Kovind had on Thursday given his assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, turning it into an Act.

According to the amended Act, non-Muslim refugees, who escaped religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and moved to India before December 31, 2014, will be granted Indian citizenship.

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Updated Date: Dec 13, 2019 20:01:26 IST