At least three are dead in Assam as the state witnesses its biggest protests in 40 years — after the Assam Agitation — with lakhs taking to the streets after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
One of the victims, identified as Dipanjal Das from Chaygaon area of Kamrup (Rural), died in police firing in Lachit Nagar area of Guwahati around 5 pm on Thursday. Following the death, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal urged protesters not to take the law into their own hands.
“The people of Assam have witnessed the kind of violence that has been going on since yesterday in the name of protest against citizenship bill. Assam is traditionally a peaceful state and so I urge the people to maintain the same,” he said.
Despite a curfew imposed from 6:15 pm on Wednesday, people were seen gathering in every nook and corner of Guwahati and in other districts of Bongaigaon, Darrang, Jorhat, Sivasgar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, setting fire to police barricade and raising slogans.
Scuffles between security forces and protesters were reported from various parts of the state including Golaghat, Tinsukia, Biswanath, Sivasagar, Bongaigaon districts. More than a hundred protesters have been injured in Guwahati alone after they were baton charged, tear gas was used on them and fired on with rubber bullets in Silpukhri, Bashishtha, Lachitnagar, Hatigaon and Ganeshguri areas. Army and police vehicles were set on fire in the vicinity of Assam Secretariat along with recovery vehicles in Guwahati.
The internet ban imposed from 7 pm on Wednesday in ten districts was extended for another 48 hours in Guwahati keeping the law and order situation in mind.
Five additional columns of Indian Army are staging flag marches in various districts of Biswanath, Bongaigaon, Jorhat and Guwahati. Recently appointed Director General of Police (DGP), Assam, Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta said, “The situation is getting worse. I urge parents of youths not to allow their children to protest. I also urge the media not to show these protests as it might lead to more agitation. I urge the media to act responsibly.” Mahanta’s convoy, which was heading towards Assam Police Headquarters, was halted by protesters in Christianbasti and forced to turn back.
Amidst the chaos, Guwahati police commissioner Deepak Kumar was removed from his post and replaced by Inspector General of Police Munna Prasad Gupta (IPS).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent out two tweets appealing for calm only for many on the microblogging website to take him to task over the fact that the Assamese have no access to internet or mobile data services.
BJP-AGP face protesters' ire
The Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally Asom Gana Parishad are facing the ire of protesters. District offices of both parties have been vandalised. In Guwahati's Ambari, where the head office of Asom Gana Parishad is located, protesters pelted stones and destroyed police vehicles.
Protesters in Bongaigaon, Dhakuakhana and Sivasagar tried to set the district offices of Bharatiya Janata Party on fire. Following the violence, Nandan Debnath, a leader of the peasant organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samitee (KMSS) was released after being picked up by the police at a protest rally in Bongaigaon.
In many places, protesters tried to vandalise the homes of BJP leaders. Sotia legislator Padma Hazarika’s house was vandalised by a mob on Thursday afternoon while the home of legislator Binod Saikia from Chabua was set afire by protesters. On Tuesday, protesters broke into Guwahati MP Queen Oja’s home and burnt her effigy on the premises.
The home of Bhubneswar Kalita, former Congress MP who joined the BJP in April, was also vandalised by a mob. Nagaon legislator Rupak Sharma also faced the ire of the public. In many places leaders and grassroot workers of both parties resigned. Over 200 grassroot BJP workers resigned in Digboi of Tinsukia district. Jatin Bora, popular movie actor and Chairman Assam State Film (Finance & Development) Corporation resigned from his post and expresses solidarity with the movement against Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Brindaban Goswami, senior leader of Asom Gana Parishad, also resigned from the post of adviser of a political committee. Amiya Mahanta, another senior leader of the AGP, resigned from the party's primary membership. AGP legislator Ramendra Narayan Kalita from Guwahati west constituency urged all the AGP leaders and member to raise their voices against the Bill.
Another AGP legislator Narendra Sonowal from Naharkatia constituency, and Mrinal Saikia, another senior leader of the party, urged the public to protest the CAB. Former chief minister and Congress leader Tarun Gogoi said. “A process has been started from 11 December to destroy the identity and culture of Assam. Sarbananda Sonowal, upon whom the state put faith, has betrayed the people of the state. This is a black day for the state.” RSS offices in Golaghat and Moran were set ablaze by protesters.
Students play key role
Lakhs of students have come out to oppose the Bill, in a manner reminiscent of the Assam Agitation in the 1980s, which lasted six years.
Students of Gauhati University were seen defying curfew and security forces. In other parts of the state, schools and colleges remained shut. In Guwahati, the colleges and schools are declared closed till 22 December and the ongoing examinations are also postponed.
All Assam Student Union (AASU), the most prominent student body in Assam, also organised a rally against CAB, where adviser Sanujjal Bhattacharjee said, “In the Assam movement, the students had to lose a valuable education year. But this time we will make sure the students keep on protesting against Bill and at the same time keep studying.”
At the rally, popular singer Zubeen Garg, and Bora, who resigned from the BJP, led the crowd in songs and slogans.
Railway services disrupted
The Northeast Frontier Railways cancelled 106 passenger trains. Services from Guwahati to Eastern Assam and Barak Valley have been halted. Thousands of passengers are stuck at Guwahati Railway Station and Kamakhya Railway Station. Hundreds of passengers are waiting in Borjhar's Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport.
The Assam Air Products Private Limited company, which supplies oxygen cylinders to Guwahati hospitals, urged protesters to at least let the oxygen cylinders to be transported. In Udaiguri district, an empty ambulance was destroyed by a mob.
According to Makepeace Sitlhou, an independent journalist based in Guwahati, broadband will be shut for the next 48 hours:
Broadband will be shut for the next 48 hours after the deployment of military to control the situation
— Makepeace Sitlhou (@makesyoucakes) December 12, 2019
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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2019 23:04:42 IST