Northeast shutdown: Police open fire on anti-CAB protesters, 2 dead

Northeast shutdown: Thousands defy curfew, Army to protest CAB in Assam, PM seeks to assuage concerns
Police use batons to disperse protestors during their march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati, Wednesday. Photo: PTI

Guwahati/New Delhi: Assam, the hotbed of anti-CAB protests, was on edge on Thursday as thousands of angry protesters came out on streets defying curfew, thumbing their nose at Army contingents staging flag marches, and clashing with police across cities.

Police opened fire in Lalung Gaon in Guwahati after protesters hurled stones at its personnel. At least two persons died due to bullet injuries.

An official of the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital told PTI that one person was "brought dead" and another succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment.

Guwahati resembled a garrison town with Army, paramilitary and state police personnel stationed in every nook and corner, watching helplessly, as frenzied mobs blocked roads with burning discarded tyres and menaced commuters by bludgeoning their vehicles with sticks and stones.

Call for protests

The Left parties wrote in a statement to the press that it considers the Bill as being completely violative of the Indian Constitution and aimed at destroying the secular democratic foundations of the Indian Republic.

They have called upon their units to organize protest actions against the CAB-NRC on December 19.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee on Thursday convened a meeting of party MPs and MLAs on December 20 to devise a strategy to counter the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Northeast shutdown: Thousands defy curfew, Army to protest CAB in Assam, PM seeks to assuage concerns
Protestors burn hoardings and other materials during their march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati, Wednesday. Photo: PTI

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is planning a series of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and will appeal to President Ram Nath Kovind not to give his assent to the "unconstitutional" legislation, party president K M Kader Mohideen said on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, the IUML moved the Supreme Court challenging the Bill, saying it violates the fundamental Right to Equality enshrined in the Constitution and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion on the basis of religion.

Congress asked the people to oppose the divisive Citizenship Amendment Bill "tooth and nail" and accused the BJP government of dividing the country once again on religious lines after the 1947 partition.

Modi appeals for calm

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for calm and sought to assuage the concerns of protesters, insisting his government was committed to safeguarding their rights.

In a series of tweets, in both Assamese and English, the prime minister said he personally and the Central government are "totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people as per the spirit of Clause 6."

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord guarantees safeguarding local rights, language and culture.

Northeast shutdown: Thousands defy curfew, Army to protest CAB in Assam, PM seeks to assuage concerns
Demonstrators protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) during a strike called by the North East Students Organisation (NESO), in Agartala, Wednesday. PTI

"I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB (sic)," PM Modi wrote on the microblogging site.

"No one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow," he wrote as the state plunged deeper into chaos and violence.

Internet services suspended

Notwithstanding his words of comfort, internet services in 10 districts were suspended for another 48 hours beginning 12 pm to prevent "misuse" of social media to disturb peace and tranquility, and to maintain law and order, officials said.

Internet services will remain suspended in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup, Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Political department) Sanjay Krishna told PTI.

Mobile internet and messaging services have also been withdrawn for 48 hours in the neighbouring state of Meghalaya. The district administration in Shillong, the state's capital, has also clamped curfew in areas under two police stations in view of the "serious" deterioration of law and order.

Burning and vandalisation of vehicles this afternoon led to chaotic situation in the Police Bazaar area and Iew Duh area, resulting in imposition of curfew in all neighbourhoods that include areas under Sadar PS and Lumdiengjri PS, District deputy commissioner M W Nongbri told PTI.

Railways suspend all passengers train services to the region

Northeast shutdown: Thousands defy curfew, Army to protest CAB in Assam, PM seeks to assuage concerns
Protesters clash with the police during their march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati, Wednesday. Photo: PTI

The Railways has suspended all passenger train services in Tripura and Assam and short-terminated long distance trains to the region at Guwahati following protests in the two states over the passage of CAB, a railway spokesperson told PTI in New Delhi on Thursday.

The decision was taken on Wednesday night in view of the security situation in the region, Northeast Frontier Railway spokesperson Subhanan Chanda said, adding many passengers are stranded in Kamakhya and Guwahati.

After a railway station in Dibrugarh's Chabua, the hometown of the Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, was set on fire late Wednesday night besides the Panitola railway station in Tinsukia, 12 companies of the Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) have been dispatched to the region, RPF chief Arun Kumar told PTI in the national capital.

"Passengers are stranded and we are trying to help them as much as possible. We are mulling to run special trains to ferry these passengers, but are still weighing if the risk is worth it.

"It might be a security threat for passengers if protesters stop the trains. As of now all passenger trains have been suspended and trains from outside the region are being short terminated at Guwahati," Chanda said.

Flights rescheduled or cancelled

An unspecified number of flights to the northeast including Guwahati were rescheduled or cancelled, an official of the Kolkata airport said.

Stern warning to TV channels

As protests continued, The Information and Broadcasting ministry issued an advisory to private satellite TV channels to be cautious about airing content is likely to incite violence, promote anti-national attitudes and contain anything affecting the integrity of the nation.

The advisory was issued after some TV channels showed footage of violent protests.

'A black day'

Heads rolled in the police establishment because of incessant protests with the state's BJP government removing Guwahati Police commissioner Deepak Kumar and appointing Munna Prasad Gupta in his place.

Anti-CAB protests: Army deployed in Tripura, 24-hr internet shutdown in Assam
Policemen use batons to disperse the students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), in Guwahati, Wednesday; Police fire teargas shells to disperse protesters who became violent during their march in Guwahati. Photo: PTI

Additional director general of police (law and order) Mukesh Agarwal was also transferred and replaced by ADGP (CID) GP Singh.

The streets of Guwahati and other cities reverberated with anti-government slogans as thousands marched through the streets cocking a snook at security forces to attend a rally called by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) at Latashil ground.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal have betrayed the people of Assam by ensuring passage of the Bill," AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya told the gathering.

Leaders of the AASU and the North East Students' Organization (NESO) said they will observe December 12 as 'Black Day' every year in protest against the passage of the Bill in Parliament.

In Dibrugarh's Chabua, the hometown of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, local MLA Binod Hazarika's residence was set on fire. Vehicles parked in the building that also houses his office were torched by protestors, an official said.

The circle office in the town was also burned down by them, he said.

Kamrup district observed total shutdown with offices, schools and colleges closed for the day. Shops were also shut, with no vehicles plying on major roads.

Police said it fired three rounds in air in Rangia town as protesters threw stones and burnt tyres. Agitators were also baton-charged at several places in the town.

Apart from Guwahati and Dibrugarh, where an indefinite curfew is in place, curfew has been imposed in Jorhat from 6 pm to 6 am to prevent vandalism at night, deputy commissioner Roshni Korati said.

Five columns of Army, comprising around 70 personnel each, have been deployed in the state and are conducting flag marches in important cities like Guwahati, Tinsukia, Jorhat and Dibrugarh.

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