Arson, clashes as anti-citizenship act protests reach Bengal, UP
In West Bengal, capital Kolkata witnessed snap demonstration at several places, bringing traffic to a standstill, while mass protest rallies were carried out in Muslim-dominated districts of rural Howrah, Murshidabad, Birbhum, parts of Burdwan and North Bengal.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 18:56 IST
Violent protests against the newly-enacted citizenship law spread to West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh on Friday, with agitators resorting to arson and stone pelting in several areas.
In West Bengal, capital Kolkata witnessed snap demonstration at several places, bringing traffic to a standstill, while mass protest rallies were carried out in Muslim-dominated districts of rural Howrah, Murshidabad, Birbhum, parts of Burdwan and North Bengal. In Murshidabad district, bordering Bangladesh, protesters set the Beldanga railway station complex ablaze and thrashed railway security personnel deputed there. Protesters also pelted stones at trains at Uluberia and Chengail in Howrah, injuring two drivers and an RPF personnel. Additional police forces were rushed to the troubled spots. “Several parts of the station, RPF kiosks were set on fire and the tracks vandalised. Services have come to a halt here,” news agency PTI quoted a senior RPF official as saying.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee called an emergency meeting at the State Secretariat. “The situation is under control,” said Gyanwant Singh, additional director general of police (law and order).
State urban development minister and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim said, “Those resorting to violence are strengthening the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party. If you want to continue like this I dare you to go to Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. Our chief minister has made it very clear that no citizenship screening will be allowed in Bengal.”
BJP’s Murshidabad (south) organisational district president, Humayun Kabir, who was earlier a minister in chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet, announced that he was going to quit the party in protest against CAA.
“I request the TMC leadership to give me an opportunity to join their battle against the BJP and CAA,” he added.
BJP’s Murshidabad (south) organisational district president Gouri Shankar Ghosh said, “I think he has not understood the ideology of the BJP. We want to run the country with people from all sects and religions. Muslims have no reason to panic.”
In Raghunathganj area of Murshidabad, the agitators set vehicles on fire and tore copies of the amended Act. They blocked National Highway-34 and ransacked vehicles and nearby shops. Several people were injured when their vehicles were pelted with stones.
In East Midnapore district’s Bhupatinagar, BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu’s car came under attack from alleged TMC supporters. All windows of the car were smashed with bricks and sticks. Basu has sustained minor injuries.
Demonstrations were also staged in several parts of Uttar Pradesh, where hundreds of Aligarh Muslim University students and teachers organised separate protest marches on Friday and handed over two memorandums to authorities, demanding immediate withdrawal of the amendments made to the Act. Several shopkeepers in the main city markets of Bareilly and Aligarh kept their stores shut to express their anguish over the decision.
The district administration has blocked internet services in Aligarh district since midnight in view of the protests. “Internet services were suspended from midnight of Thursday and remained suspended throughout the day on Friday in the district”, stated SP City for Aligarh Abhishek. Security measures were intensified across Aligarh city.
In Bareilly, shops remained closed in Old City areas as thousands of activists of Ittehad-e-Millat Council (IMC), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Musalman-e-Bareilly held a demonstration in various parts of the city. They were, however, prevented from taking out a march by the district administration
Mufti Rahat, the chief of Musalman-e-Bareilly, was detained by the Bareilly police for staging a protest and was not released till the time of filing of this report.
At least 15 processions were carried out across the state. Shahr Qazi Riyaz Ahmed Hashmati, who led one such procession from Babupurwa, said the government should take back the law, which discriminated against one community.