Citizenship Act: NE, Bengal on fire, protests spread to other parts of country
Protests against the amended Citizenship Act continued on Saturday in Assam and other parts of North East and West Bengal which saw several incidents of arsoning and the killing of a person. The protests also spread to other parts of the country including the national capital and Mumbai.
In Assam indefinite curfew was relaxed for several hours in Dibrugarh and Guwahati, which has emerged as the epicentre of protests against the contentious piece of legislation. However, suspension of internet services across Assam was extended for 48 hours till December 16.
Under the new law, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
Curfew was also relaxed in the Meghalaya capital Shillong.
Nagaland observed a six-hour shutdown against the legislation.
In West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress government has been opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, arson by protesters was reported from various areas.
Buses, a railway station, a toll plaza in Muslim- dominated Murshidabad were set on fire by protesters, officials said.
In Assam the toll in the large scale protests against the Act rose to three as protesters set ablaze an oil tanker at Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur district and killed its driver during curfew on Friday late night.
Two others had been killed during the violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati earlier this week.
Schools and offices in Guwahati remained shut.
The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which is spearheading the agitation, kept up its protest meetings along with Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and 30 other indigenous organisations in the Brahmaputra Valley.
Train services between Guwahati and the rest of the country was disrupted in a rail blockade called by the AJYCP, which is demanding the implementation of Inner Line Permit in the state.
AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said protests will continue everyday till 5 pm as the students body follows Mahatma Gandhi's ideal of non violence.
The AASU has called for 'satyagraha' for three days, beginning December 16.
"We will continue with our agitation till the Act is withdrawn but we will follow the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi in our struggle which will be non-violent and disciplined," Gogoi said.
A Northeast Frontier Railway spokesperson said that all trains to Upper Assam districts have been terminated at Guwahati, while all-long distance trains leaving Guwahati will resume their onward journey after the blockade.
The Opposition Congress and the AIUDF have separately requested the Assam Assembly Speaker to call a special session to discuss the concerns expressed by the people of the state on the amended Citizenship Act.
In West Bengal, where violent protests against the citizenship legislation began on Friday, a portion of Sankrail railway station complex in Howrah district was set on fire on Saturday by a mob, officials said.
Hundreds of people protesting against the amended Citizenship Act since morning blocked roads in and around the Sankrail railway station and also set a few shops on fire.
At Krishnapur station in Murshidabad district a number of empty trains were set on fire, besides railway tracks at Lalgola station, which they also ransacked.
Train services were affected in Howrah and Sealdah sections.
A number of private and public buses were torched by angry protestors on the arterial Kona Expressway that connects NH2 (Delhi Road) to NH6 (Mumbai Road) near the city and in the districts and a toll plaza was set ablaze in Murshidabad district.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned of strict action against perpetrators of violence and appealed to people to protest democratically and maintain peace.
"Do not take up law in your hand. Do not put up road blockades and rail blockades and create trouble for the common people on the roads. Do not cause damage to government properties. Strict action would be taken against those who are found guilty in creating disturbances," a CMO statement quoting her said.
She also iterated that the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed country-wide NRC will not take effect in the state.
BJP threatens to dismiss Mamata Government
Meanwhile, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha Saturday said the party will seek imposition of President's Rule in the state if the situation continues.
"She (CM Mamata Banerjee) has done little to contain the spiralling violence which is on for the past two days in the state over the enactment of Citizenship Act," he said.
"We (BJP) never support President's Rule. But if such anarchy continues in West Bengal, we will be left with no option but to seek President's Rule in the state," Sinha told reporters in Kolkata.
Curfew was also relaxed in Shillong during the day as the law and order situation improved. The regulation had been imposed in parts of the city amid violent protests against the amended Citizenship Acted, officials said.
The Meghalaya government has decided to convene a special one-day session of the Assembly to bring in a resolution to implement the Inner Line Permit regime in the state.
In Nagaland schools and colleges were closed, markets were shut and vehicles plied in fewer numbers during the six-hour shutdown since 6 am by Naga Students' Federation against the amended Citizenship Act, officials said.
The Citizenship Amendment Act has put the North East on the boil as people fear that it may exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration, while Muslims across the country apprehend that the move could be a precursor to the country-wide implementation of the National Register for Citizens (NRC).
Hundreds of people gathered at Jantar Mantar in the national capital on Saturday to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
People from all walks of life came out in solidarity with those opposing the new law. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) closed entry and exit gates at Janpath and Jamia metro station in view of the protests.
A group of city residents who hail from Assam staged a demonstration against the amended Citizenship Act in Mumbai here on Saturday. The protest was held at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai.
The participants carried placards, banners and handbills with messages "Say No to CAA", "We oppose CAA" and "Withdraw CAA, Save Assam". CAA stands for Citizenship Amendment Act.
"We are fighting over the issue of foreigners (settling down in Assam) for the last many years and now with this Act, the situation will worsen. If we gave shelter to more foreigners, Assamese citizens will suffer," said one protester.
"We took in everyone who came before 1971, they took our place, now we are left with nothing," he said.
In Patna, Lalu Prasad's RJD has given call for a Bihar bandh on December 21 in protest against the amended Citizenship Act, alleging that it has blown the Constitution to "smithereens".
In a related development, two prominent civil society organisations of Assam on Saturday said they will file separate petitions in the Supreme Court against the amended Citizenship Act and will seek a stay on it.
The Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill (FACAAB) and Asom Nagarik Samaj (ANS) said they are preparing the papers to will move the apex court soon.
In separate press conferences, the two organisations appealed to the people to continue their protests in a democratic and peaceful manner against the Act that will grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there.