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Army deployed in Assam; stones pelted at CM's home

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 12, 2019 00:25 IST

Guwahati, the epicentre of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Bill protests, was placed under indefinite curfew and Army was deployed in the city and Assam Rifles personnel were deployed in Tripura on Wednesday as the two northeastern states plunged into chaos over the hugely emotive bill, officials said.

 

IMAGE: Protester's burn hoardings and other materials during their march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati, on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo

Army PRO Lieutenant Colonel P Khongsai said two Army columns have been deployed in Guwahati and are carrying out flag marches.

Army has also been deployed in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts, officials said.

The Army headquarters in New Delhi is closely monitoring the situation in the northeastern region in the wake of widespread protests and violence against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, official sources said on Wednesday.

IMAGE: Security personnel on guard during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, in Agartala, Tripura, on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo

They said two Army columns have been deployed in Tripura which witnessed massive protests against the legislation that seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who have faced religious persecution there.

The approximate strength of one column is 70 personnel.

The sources said one column has been put on standby in Assam's Bongaigaon and another in Dibrugarh.

Field commanders and Army headquarters are monitoring the situation closely, said a senior Army official.

IMAGE: Protesters throw stones as they clash with the police during their march in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo

Stones were pelted at the house of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Dibrugarh on Wednesday night.

Dibrugarh Deputy Commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha said stones were thrown at the house of the chief minister in the Lakhinagar area.

Some windowpanes were damaged in the stone pelting, a caretaker of the house said, adding that Superintendent of Police Gautam Borah visited the house.

The anti-CAB protesters also vandalised the houses of Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Prasanta Phukan and party leader Subhash Dutta, officials said.

The Army has been deployed in Guwahati, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts in Assam as the protests spread.

IMAGE: Policemen use batons to disperse the students protesting against the bill, in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo

Guwahati, the epicentre of the protests, was placed under indefinite curfew.

A Defence spokesman had earlier said in a statement in Shillong that two columns of the Army were deployed in Tripura.

In a late evening clarification, it said that troops of the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force commanded by Army officials, were pressed into service in Tripura.

Internet services have been suspended in 10 districts of Assam, beginning 7 pm on Wednesday, as massive protests raged across cities, to prevent 'misuse' of social media to disturb peace and tranquility and maintain law and order.

IMAGE: Protests near Janata Bhawan in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo

Internet services have been suspended in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup, a notification issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Political Department) Kumar Sanjay Krishna, said.

Internet services are already suspended in the entire state of Tripura for 48 hours from 2 pm on Tuesday to thwart attempts by mischief mongers to disturb peace.

An order issued by the Tripura government also prohibits SMSes on the networks of all mobile service providers.

IMAGE: A fire tender that was vandalised by protesters in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo

As tens of thousands of anti-CAB protesters descended on the streets of Assam on Wednesday, clashing with police and plunging the state into chaos of a magnitude unseen since the violent six-year movement by students that ended with the signing of the Assam Accord, Guwahati was placed under curfew.

Initially, Assam police chief Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta told PTI that the curfew, which began at 6.15 pm on Wednesday, will continue till 7 am on Thursday.

He later informed that it has been extended indefinitely.

IMAGE: Many agitators were injured in police action in front of the secretariat in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo

However, defying the curfew order protesters were still on the streets of Guwahati where most arterial roads were blocked.

The Congress party has, meanwhile, called a shutdown in Tripura on Thursday.

Though no party or student body had called a shutdown in Assam, protesters, a majority of them students, fought pitched battles with security forces, including in front of the secretariat, the seat of the Bharatiya Janata Party government.

IMAGE: Defying curfew order, protesters were on the streets of Guwahati where most arterial roads were blocked. Photograph: PTI Photo

Police fired tear gas shells and baton-charged protesters, who fought back.

Assam smouldered with protests rocking several parts of the state on the day the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday after its passage by the Lok Sabha on Monday.

Some student leaders, who went live on national TV, claimed many agitators were injured in police action in front of the secretariat.

IMAGE: Protesters clash with the police during their march against the CAB in Guwahati on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo

According to unofficial accounts, hundreds of protesters have been detained in Guwahati and other places like Dibrugarh and Jorhat.

Similar incidents were reported from Tripura capital Agartala.

Police opened fire in Assam capital Dispur to quell a protest by the agitators after water cannons, baton-charge and tear gas failed to rein them in.

A large number of agitated students blocked the road near the secretariat complex and pulled down the barricade erected on the arterial G S Road, provoking police action.

IMAGE: Demonstrators protesting against the bill being detained by security personnel during a strike called by the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), in Agartala, on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo

Police burst teargas shells and baton-charged the protesters, who were seen lobbing back the shells at men in uniform.

They also damaged a stage erected on the road for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Sunday.

The agitators pulled down hoardings and banners advertising the government's welfare schemes and made a bonfire of those before the secretariat, in scenes reminiscent of the 6-year movement by students against illegal settlers that ended with the signing of the Assam accord in 1985.

In a rare show of solidarity with the protesters, government employees at the secretariat wore 'gamosa', the state's symbol of honour, and stood behind the gates and
chanted slogans against the CAB.

IMAGE: Police resort to baton charge to disperse protesters who became violent during their march in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Assam Secretariat Employees' Association also issued a statement supporting the protests and opposing the CAB.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was reported to have been stranded for some time at the Guwahati airport on his return from Tezpur because of the agitation.

Protesters blocked almost every road in Guwahati and state capital Dispur by placing burning discarded tyres, leaving office-goers stranded.

Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) of Akhil Gogoi has called a 'hartal' to protest against the controversial bill until it is withdrawn.

 

IMAGE: Women activists take part in a protest against the bill in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo

Life virtually came to a grinding halt in Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Sivsagar, parts of Guwahati and in some districts of Lower Assam.

Gauhati and Dibrugarh Universities have postponed all examinations scheduled till December 14.

Classes in most universities and colleges were not held as students joined the protests. Schools were open but there were hardly any children as buses they were travelling on were stranded.

IMAGE: Police personnel fire tear gas after the situation turned volatile when students clashed with security forces during their protest march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo

Anti-CAB agitators also clashed with police in Dibrugarh where rubber bullets and tear gas shells were fired to break up protests.

A journalist was reported injured in an stone throwing incident in Dibrugarh.

In view of the protests, the Northeast Frontier Railway has cancelled many trains and rescheduled some that originate from the state.

At least 31 trains have either been cancelled, short terminated or diverted anticipating 'disruptions in train movement', NF Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Subhanan Chanda said in a statement.

IMAGE: Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) members try to cross barricades during a protest against the CAB in front of BJP office, in New Delhi, on Wednesday. Photograph: Arun Sharma/PTI Photo

A group of people from northeastern states also gathered at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to protest against the bill.

The protesters slammed the government over the bill and raised slogans like: 'We oppose CAB' and 'We need Justice'.

They carried banners like 'Assam is not a dumping ground for foreigners', 'Save Tripura', 'Tripura rejects CAB' and 'Identity at stake'.

The citizenship bill is a cause of worry for the people of Northeast, so students from northeast who are studying here have come together to protest against it, said Abinash Gogoi, vice-president of Assam unit of the Congress-affiliated National Students' Union of India.

IMAGE: A group of people shout slogans during a protest against CAB and NRC in Kolkata on Wednesday. Photograph: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI Photo

"BJP is trying to muzzle the sentiments of the northeast people just because they have the numbers in Rajya Sabha as well as Lok Sabha, but we will not allow the implementation of such bill in Assam or anywhere in the Northeast," said Gogoi.

"If this bill is implemented, people from Bangladesh will come to our states just like how it happened in Tripura and states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh will also meet the same fate. We will become a minority in our own state," said Yompe Chisi, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh and is pursing graduation at Delhi University.

Namrata, a student of Delhi University's Daulat Ram College, termed the bill as unconstitutional and said it not only violates the secular ethos but also the Assam Accord of 1985.

"All our tradition, culture and even our language will be in danger if people from Bangladesh will be allowed. Assam and Tripura will be affected the most. We will face identity crisis in our own country. The situation in Assam today is similar to that of Kashmir," she said.

IMAGE: Students of the University of Madras protest against the bill, in Chennai, on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo

Another protester criticised the shutting down of internet services in Assam.

"Ever since the bill was passed in Lok Sabha, situation is very bad in Assam because of agitations there. There is a fear that Bengali speaking Hindus will come and encroach upon our land, and we will be reduced to a linguistic minority," said G D Barua, president of Assam Association (Noida).

WATCH: Police clash with protesters

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