CAB protest: Three killed, Assam remains volatile

 Police fire teargas shells to disperse protesters during their clashes as they march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati.  (PTI Photo)

The situation in Assam remained volatile on Thursday as three people were killed and several others were injured in police firing during a public protest against the Centre's Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Defying the curfew, thousands of protesters marched to Latasil playground, adjacent to Gauhati High Court and staged a joint protest against the Bill amid flag march by the Army.

As situation worsened, unified command meeting held in Guwahati on Thursday evening decided to hand over the charge of law and order to the Army.

Protesters attacked the convoy of Assam state police chief Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta near the state Secretariat in Guwahati, while the houses of two BJP legislators were set on fire in Chabua and Sootea. Stones were pelted at Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal's official residence in Guwahati, while the residence of the state government's legal adviser was ransacked. Several BJP and RSS offices were also attacked.

Many police vehicles were set on fire at different places in Guwahati and other districts of the state. Security forces fired tear gas shells and also resorted to lathicharge to disperse the angry protesters in Guwahati.

Struggling to tackle the volatile situation, the state government called in two senior IPS officers- Inspector Generals of Police GP Singh and Munna Prasad Gupta, who were on deputation with the NIA and the SPG respectively in New Delhi. The Guwahati police commissioner Deepak Kumar was transferred and Munna Prasad Gupta was appointed in his place.

"Protesters are taking law into their hands. Everything has been video recorded and action will be initiated based on the footage. I appeal to them not to take law into their hands," GP Singh, now assigned the charge of law and order, said.

The administration was forced to clamp curfew in Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar districts in eastern Assam where protesters burnt tyres, blocked roads and pelted stones at the security forces. Ban on mobile internet in 12 districts was extended till Saturday fearing further escalation of the situation.

At least 24 trains, including the Rajdhani Express, were cancelled as the protesters set on fire two railway stations. Scores of passengers remained stranded at LGBI airport in Guwahati due to the curfew. Several flights were also cancelled.

Chief Minister Sonowal said some people were spreading misinformation about the CAG to aggravate the situation in the state. "People of Assam need not worry about the CAB.

Their culture, language and land rights will be protected by implementing Clause VI of the Assam Accord. A committee has already been set up in this regard," he said.

The indigenous people in the Brahmaputra Valley districts fear that the CAB will reduce them into minorities by giving citizenship to a large number of post-1971 Hindu migrants. Situation in Barak valley and districts having large Hindu Bengali population, however, remained tense. No untoward incidents were reported.

The protest is likely to continue as the influential All Assam Students Union has called for a protest meeting in Guwahati tomorrow. The Students' body, however, appealed for peaceful protest.

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