Curfew relaxed in Dibrugarh, but rest of Assam reeling under protest over citizenship law
The authorities have relaxed curfew in Assam’s Dibrugarh for five hours today - from 8am to 1pm. The state has been reeling under a raging protest over citizenship law, which came into existence after presidential assent on Thursday.
The curfew was clamped in various cities of Assam shortly after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was cleared on Wednesday, and authorities cut off mobile internet services in some areas to stop rumours and limit the ability of people to organise after mobs began going on a rampage. The suspension of mobile internet services was extended for another 48 hours on Thursday.
The 10 districts where mobile internet has been suspended are Lakhimpur, Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (metro) and Kamrup.
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Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has urged people to maintain peace and asserted that the central government was committed to implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord to protect the state’s cultural and linguistic identity.
The police, who joined the paramilitary forces in clashes with demonstrators breaking curfew in Guwahati, opened fire on the crowd on Thursday in which two people died. Ramen Talukdar, superintendent of Gauhati Medical College Hospital, said 11 others were injured, news agency Reuters reported.
Five thousand paramilitary troops have been deployed in Guwahati, while many roads and highways are blocked to prevent the spread of protests.
Officials said 20 to 30 people have been hurt in the demonstrations in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing tear gas and charging the crowds with wooded staffs.
Guwahati police commissioner Deepak Kumar was removed from his post and replaced over the outbreak of violence, authorities said. The additional director general of police (law and order) was also replaced.
All train services to Tripura and Assam were suspended and some flights were cancelled. Several cricket and football matches scheduled to be played in Assam were also called off amid the curfew.
Mobile internet and messaging services were also suspended in neighbouring Meghalaya for 48 hours since 5pm on Thursday after incidents in which vehicles were vandalised. Areas under two police stations in state capital Shillong were placed under curfew.
In a series of tweets, in both Assamese and English, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for calm and sought to assuage the concerns of protesters, insisting his government was committed to safeguarding their rights.
“The central government and I are totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural, and land rights of the Assamese people as per the spirit of Clause 6,” the Prime Minister said, referring to a provision of the Assam Accord, which was struck 34 years ago, after a six-year-long anti-immigrant agitation led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heads the state government in Assam.