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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Citizenship Act protests rage through Bengal, CM Mamata appeals for peace

Under the new Citizenship law, the cutoff is December 31, 2014, for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It has become controversial largely because it excludes Muslims.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 14, 2019 11:25:10 pm
Citizenship Act protests rage through Bengal, CM Mamata appeals for peace Road block at Kona Expressway as protests erupt against Citizenship Act in Howrah, West Bengal. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

West Bengal continued to witness violent protests against the amended Citizenship Act for the second consecutive day as agitators damaged public property by torching a number of trains, buses, railway stations and tracks in different parts of the state on Saturday, news agency PTI reported.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to people to maintain peace and protest democratically and warned of strict action against those found guilty in creating disturbances. “Do not take up law in your hand. Do not put up road blockades and rail blockades and create trouble for the common people on the roads,” she said in a statement released from the chief minister’s office. The Chief Minister also assured that the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed country-wide NRC will not be implemented in the state.

Under the new law, the cutoff is December 31, 2014, for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It has become controversial largely because it excludes Muslims.

Violence breaks out at Kona Expressway in connection with protests against Citizenship Act. (Express photo)

Murshidabad and Howrah districts bore most of the brunt of the protesters’ ire. A number of empty trains were set ablaze at Krishnapur station in Murshidabad, while Lalgola station was ransacked by protesters, PTI reported. They also vandalised Sujnipara in Murshidabad district and set fire on railway tracks at Harishchandrapur in neighbouring Malda district. In Howrah district, they ransacked Sankrail railway station and torched its ticket counter and damaged the signalling system.

“When RPF and railway personnel tried to stop them, they were beaten up,” a senior Railway Protection Force official told PTI. Violence was also reported from Domjur and Bagnan in Howrah as protestors rampaged outside the stations, blocked roads and set fire to shops. The NH6 was blocked in Domjur by protesters who burnt tyres and ransacked several vehicles, a police official said.

South Central Railways cancelled multiple trains from Howrah station due to the tension brewing in the area. Train services were hampered in Howrah and Sealdah sections. A host of public and private buses were also torched by angry protestors on Kona Expressway that connects NH2 (Delhi Road) to NH6 (Mumbai Road) near the city.

Assam remains tense, internet suspended till December 16

Assam continued to face restrictions for the fourth straight day in view of the law and situation following protests against the amended Citizenship Act. While indefinite curfew was relaxed for several hours in Dibrugarh and Guwahati, the suspension of internet services across the state was extended for 48 hours till December 16, news agency PTI reported. Schools and offices in Guwahati remained shut.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will lead a team to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah very soon to discuss the ongoing protests in the state against the amended Citizenship Act, PTI reported.

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Suspension of internet services have been extended for another 48 hours keeping in view the prevailing law and order situation in the state, additional chief secretary (home and political department) Sanjay Krishna told PTI.

Railway authorities have started running special trains from Guwahati to help passengers stranded in Assam due to railway blockades due to protests. In view of the prevailing situation, the Assam government employees’ association has announced cease work on December 18.

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With the improvement in law and order situation, curfew was also relaxed in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong during the day. The Meghalaya government decided to hold a special one-day Assembly session to bring in a resolution implementing the Inner Line Permit regime in the state. Joint CSIR-UGC NET exam for candidates from Assam and Meghalaya was also postponed in the wake of unrest in the region.

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In Nagaland, streets wore a deserted look, schools and colleges remained closed and markets shut during the six-hour shutdown since 6 am called by Naga Students’ Federation, PTI quoted officials as saying.

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