Citizenship bill protests singe Assam; flights suspended, train services hit
A railway station in Dibrugarh’s Chabua, the hometown of the chief minister, was set on fire by protesters late on Wednesday night.
Flag marches by Army, firing by security personnel and incidents of violence and vandalism continued in several parts of Assam through the night on Wednesday after the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, by Parliament. There is indefinite curfew in some areas and mobile internet has been shut down in 10 districts.
In view of the violence, the government has cancelled some flights to and from Assam sector, where the resistance has been the strongest.
“Nine flight at Dibrugarh have been cancelled because there are no taxis and some passengers who arrived yesterday are still stranded,” said Sanjeev Jindal, regional executive director, Northeast, Airport Authority of India.
He said as many as 50 passengers from neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh are still stranded at the airport. “We managed to send people to Tinsukia and Dibrugarh town. But the ones from Arunachal are still at the airport. We are providing them with food and other essential commodities,” said Jindal.
In Guwahati, army personnel carried out flag march on the streets on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning in order to bring the situation under control. Curfew imposed since Wednesday evening has been extended indefinitely.
“Things are in control. There was a lot of violence last night. Curfew had to be imposed. We are monitoring the situation closely and Army has been called in and doing a flag march,” said Pallav Gopal Jha, Deputy Commissioner, Dibrugarh, on Thursday.
The curfew was clamped in Guwahati after protests of a scale reminiscent of those that took place during the six-year movement against illegal immigrants in the state that ended with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.
A railway station in Dibrugarh’s Chabua, the hometown of the chief minister, was set on fire by protesters late in the night. The Panitola railway station in Tinsukia district was also torched, a Northeast Frontier Railway spokesperson said.
“The protesters burnt down things in Chabua and Panitola railway station. They barged into the RSS office and burnt down the ground floor in Dibrugarh. The fire brigade which came was also vandalised. We later managed to control it,” said Jha.
A senior police officer was shot at during the protests on Monday in the oil town of Duliajan. “The officer in-charge sustained bullet injuries,” said Jha. “Some miscreants seem to have mixed with the crowds,” he added.
According to Jha, curfew may be lifted by evening if situation improves.
“Due to the protests and violence, all long distance trains going from Guwahati towards Dibrugarh have been cancelled till the situation become normal,” said an official of Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR).
In Tripura, a 24-hour bandh (shutdown) has been called by Congress on Thursday in protest against CAB.
Meanwhile, the Joint Movement Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (JMCAB) has withdrawn their indefinite strike after Assam Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb assured them of arranging a discussion with Home Minister Amit Shah.
(With inputs from Priyanka Deb Barman in Agartala)