Assam boils; firing, riots claim 3

Assam boils; firing, riots claim 3

Protesters burn machinery to block a road during an agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati on Thursday. PTI

Three people were killed and several injured in police firing and violence as the situation in Assam, which witnessed violent protests against the Centre’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday, deteriorated on Thursday.

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

Two protesters died in police firing at Lachit Nagar and Hatigaon area on Thursday evening while another died in Tinsukia in eastern Assam when protesters burnt down some shops.

As the situation worsened, a 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 police chief Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta near the state secretariat, while the houses of two BJP legislators were set on fire in Chabua and Sootea. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s official residence in Guwahati was pelted with stones, 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 in Guwahati and other districts of the state. The Army said it rescued passengers of an express train from a mob trying to set the carriages on fire at Naharkatia station.

Struggling to tackle the situation, the state government called in two IPS officers — Inspectors General of Police G P Singh and Munna Prasad Gupta — who were on deputation with the NIA and the SPG respectively in New Delhi. Guwahati police chief 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,” G P Singh, now in 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 the security forces with stones. Ban on mobile Internet in 12 districts was extended till Saturday fearing worsening of the situation.

At least 24 trains, including the Rajdhani Express, were cancelled as 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. An Indigo flight ferried stranded passengers to Kolkata.

CM Sonowal said some people were spreading misinformation about the CAB to aggravate the situation. “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 protest is likely to continue as the influential All Assam Students Union has called for a protest meeting in Guwahati on Friday. The students’ body, however, appealed for a peaceful protest.

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