On a day when violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill spread to more areas in Assam and Tripura, government and political functionaries in the national capital pointed to “unpreparedness, poor communication and error of judgment” by the Centre and the state governments over reactions on the street to the legislation.
A source in the government admitted that there could have been an error of judgment in weighing in the possibilities of violent protests on the streets against the Bill. “There could have been an error of judgment (about the responses). We must have made a mistake in assessing the situation. Or there could be communication gap,” said a source.
Another party source said, “This scale of violent response was not anticipated.”
However, the government source said, “Things will be under control soon. Normalcy will return in 24-48 hours.”
The Assam government on Thursday shunted out Additional DGP of Assam Mukesh Aggarwal and replaced him with G P Singh, an officer of the Assam cadre on central deputation. An IG with the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Singh was repatriated to his parent cadre overnight and rushed to Guwahati by a 2 am flight on Thursday to take charge of the situation.
“Singh has handled such situations when he was earlier posted there and so the Assam government has called him back,” an MHA official said, adding that the ministry was constantly monitoring the situation and was in touch with the administration there.
Notably, the government had similar apprehensions in Kashmir when the special status under Article 370 was scrapped, but with preparations in advance and a complete shutdown ahead of the announcement, it had managed to ensure there was little violence.
“The two situations can’t be compared. Assam does not have the kind of militancy and external interference that Kashmir has. The steps taken in Kashmir were drastic. The same cannot be replicated in Assam. There was intelligence of unrest and based on information provided by the Intelligence Bureau, Internet had been suspended on Wednesday. There was no plan of shutdown in the first place,” the official said.
Sources said due to anticipation of violence, 50 companies of Central Armed Police Forces were withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir and stationed in Assam a week ago. Two columns of the Army, too, reached Guwahati on Wednesday. “Eventually the state police which has to manage the situation as the forces are at their command. We hope the situation will normalise in a couple of days,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Rajdeep Roy, BJP MP from Silchar, blamed “miscreant elements and the opposition Congress” for the violence on the ground. According to him, neither the party nor the governments expected “these elements could create such trouble” in the state.
“These people are trying to catch fish in the muddy waters. The Congress does not have a space as an opposition or in the minds of people and now they are trying to get entry through backdoor,” Roy told The Indian Express.
Pointing out that the Home Minister held dialogue with around 160 organisations, 600-700 people for almost 120 hours before introducing the Bill, Roy said, “We never expected the miscreants would join the protests. People from outside would join…”
“We expected some kind of protests, that’s why our Home Minister did that humongous effort of consulting people. Despite all that, we never expected this would go like this,” Roy said.
Asked if more forces and timely preparation could have avoided the situation, the MP said, “I cannot comment on it, because I am not on the ground. I am still in Delhi… But it will be under control soon.”
Amit Shah meets Tripura delegations
Amid protests in Tripura over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday met various delegations from the state, including one from Joint Movement Against Citizenship Amendment Bill, which is spearheading the protests in the state. A Home Ministry spokesperson said the minister assured them their concerns would be addressed. “After his assurance, they have called off their strike,” the spokesperson said. The Home Minister is expected to visit Shillong on December 15 for an event at the North East Police Academy.
Shah tweeted, “Met with delegations of IPFT and Joint Movement Against CAB from Tripura and discussed their concerns over CAB. Modi government will try to solve their issues in a positive way. I thank them for their appeal to maintain peace and call off the strike.” Shah also met a delegation of Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura and Tripura royal scion and former state Congress chief Kirit Pradyot Deb Barman.