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Citizenship Act protests: Assam remains tense, violence spills over to Bengal

On late Thursday night, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Bill even as violent protests continued to rock the northeast. Two people were killed and over 20 injured in alleged police firing.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 13, 2019 10:52:09 pm
Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Elderly women are joined by others as they shout slogans during a protest rally against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Gauhati, India, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP Photo)

The situation in Assam continued to remain tense for the third consecutive day as a total of eight columns of the Army and Assam Rifles were deployed in the state, including Guwahati to control the ongoing violent protests against the controversial Citizenship Act.

“To arrest the deteriorating law and order situation, particularly in Guwahati, Morigaon, Sonitpur and Dibrugarh, Assam Rifles was requisitioned. Till now a total of eight columns have been requisitioned which include one in Bongaigaon, one in Morigaon, four columns in Guwahati and two in Sonitpur,” Defence Public Relation Officer Lt Col P Khongsai said. He added that both the Assam Rifles Columns and the Indian Army are working to restore normalcy in the state.

Curfew has been imposed at several places in Assam, while the Army has carried out flag marches in many districts to control protests and violence. In Dibrugarh, the indefinite curfew was relaxed for five hours even as a large number of protesters joined All Assam Students Union’s (AASU) call for a 10-hour hunger strike in Chandmari area of Guwahati. No violent incidents were reported from Guwahati, the hotbed of violent protests, but peaceful protests were held by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and some other outfits. Internet services in 10 districts were suspended for another 48 hours beginning 12 pm Thursday to prevent “misuse” of social media to disturb peace and tranquility, and to maintain law and order, officials said.

Explained: What is the Assam Accord that is fueling protests in the state?

On late Thursday night, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Bill even as violent protests continued to rock the northeast. Two persons were killed in alleged police firing, two railway stations and a government office vandalised, the houses of two BJP MLAs attacked, and street clashes between protesters and security forces reported from across Assam Thursday.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Police clear road blocks as a man tries to douse a fire set by protestors in Gauhati, India, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo)

The Act will allow citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis — it leaves out Muslims — who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014.

CAB protests spillover to Bengal; Beldanga railway station set ablaze

Even as protests over the amended Citizenship Act showed signs of abating in Assam and elsewhere in the northeast, the agitation reached the shores of West Bengal on Friday, with protesters vandalising public property and clashing with the police. While curfew was relaxed in Assam’s Dibrugarh and Meghalaya capital Shillong, parts of West Bengal were in throes of violence, with protesters setting ablaze Beldanga railway station in Murshidabad district and thrashing RPF personnel, news agency PTI reported. Similar incidents of violence were reported from Uluberia and Diamond Harbour as agitators blocked railway tracks and vandalised stations, PTI reported.

Amit Shah cancels Northeast trip

Union Home Minister Amit Shah cancelled his visit to two Northeastern states — Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh — where he was supposed to visit on Sunday and Monday. Shah was supposed to take part in the passing out parade at the North Eastern Police Academy near Shillong on Sunday and a festival in Tawang the next day, news agency PTI said.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Protesters hold placards during a protest rally against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Gauhati, India, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP Photo)

India-Japan Summit deferred

India and Japan on Friday mutually decided to defer the annual summit talks which were slated to take place in Guwahati from December 15-17, the Ministry of External Affairs said. Taking to Twitter, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “With reference to the proposed visit of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to India, both sides have decided to defer the visit to a mutually convenient date in the near future.”

The clarification from the ministry came amid Japanese media reports stating that Abe was considering cancelling his three-day trip for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi from December 15-17 in the Assam capital.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Security personnel clear a road blockades set by protesters in Gauhati, India, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo)

This was the second summit between the two countries. Last year, Japan hosted the summit in picturesque Yamanashi prefecture during which both sides had resolved to significantly expand bilateral cooperation in a range of areas.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express A protester throws a tin onto a fire made to block traffic in Gauhati, India, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo)

Protests erupt in Jamia, police resort to lathicharge

In Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia University, the protests turned violent as the students clashed with the police, following which the police resorted to lathicharge. There were reports of stone-pelting at the protest site, with the police using tear gas shells to disperse protesters.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Police resort to tear gas shelling to disperse the protesting students at Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi. Express Photo

The police blocked the protest route by putting heavy barricades outside the campus, fearing violence, and detained those who tried to jump the barricades.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has closed entry and exit gates of Patel Chowk and Janpath metro stations due to students’ protests against the Bill. “As advised by Delhi Police, entry & exit at Patel Chowk and Janpath have been closed. Trains will not be halting at these stations,” DMRC said in a tweet. However, the entry and exit gates of the above-mentioned metro stations were opened sometime later.

Murmurs in government over ‘error of judgement’

Amid the heavy protests, a source in the government had admitted that there could have been an error of judgment in weighing 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 a communication gap,” said a source. Another BPJ source said, “This scale of violent response was not anticipated.”

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Guwahati: An activist of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) raises slogans during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), in Guwahati, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (PTI Photo)(PTI12_5_2019_000057B)

No CAB in Kerala, Punjab, Bengal

After West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab have emerged at the forefront of a pushback by Opposition governments against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed in Parliament this week, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan saying Thursday that “an anti-Constitutional law will have no place” in his state.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Protesters are staging a 10-hour hunger strike against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Guwahati on Friday. (Express photo/Tora Agarwala)

“The Supreme Court had made it clear on several occasions that the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be undermined. So, it is clear that this law will not stand legal scrutiny. When that is evident, there are heinous political aims behind passing anti-Constitutional laws using the arrogance of power…Kerala will not implement it. Discrimination based on religion will not be allowed,” he said.

Describing CAB as a direct assault on India’s secular character, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said, his government will not let the legislation be implemented in Punjab. “We have a majority in the Assembly, and will block the Bill. We will not let it rip apart the secular fabric of the country, whose strength lies in its diversity,” he said.

Bangladesh ministers cancel India visit

Two senior Bangladesh ministers — Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan — on Thursday cancelled their visits to India. Momen, who had said on Wednesday that CAB could weaken India’s character as a secular nation and rejected allegations that minorities were facing religious persecution in Bangladesh, was scheduled to visit India for the 6th Indian Ocean Dialogue from December 12 to 14. Meanwhile, Khan was scheduled to travel to Meghalaya on Friday, at the invitation of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. “The visit has been postponed. The minister will visit Meghalaya at a convenient time later, which may be in January-February,” said Sharif Mahmdud, Bangladesh Home Ministry spokesperson, according to Dhaka Tribune.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express Protesters shout slogans against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Gauhati, India, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Cong, allies fanning flames in North-East: PM Modi

In his first public comments on the CAB, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Assam, and assured people that their identity and culture would be protected. He also accused the Congress and its allies of spreading confusion over the Bill’s provisions and fanning the flames in the North-East. Taking to Twitter, Modi posted: “I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB. I want to assure them — no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.”

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express People take away wooden sticks from a roadblock put up by the protesters during yesterday’s protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Gauhati, India, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath

Later, speaking at an election rally in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad, the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to protect the “culture, language and tradition” of the North East. “The Congress and its allies are attempting to set a fire in the North East, create confusion that a large number of people will come from Bangladesh. The law is for refugees who are already in India, and the cut-off date in December 31, 2014, is for that purpose,” he said.

IUML moves SC challenging CAB

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) Thursday moved the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), a day after it was passed in the Rajya Sabha. The IUML alleged that the Bill violates the fundamental Right to Equality of the Constitution. This is the first petition moved by the IUML, along with four other Members of Parliament—PK Kunhalikutty, ET Mohammed Basheer, Abdul Wahab, and K Navas Kani.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB 2019, CAB protests, Citizenship Bill protests, Citizenship Amendment Bill protests, Amit Shah, Assam protests, Assam CAB protests, India news, Indian Express A protest against the citizenship Bill in Guwahati. (Express photo by Dasarath Deka)

RS passes CAB: Dark day in our constitutional history, says Sonia Gandhi

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Rajya Sabha Wednesday, with 125 votes in favour and 105 against, after a six-and-a-half-hour long debate even as the Opposition tore into the government, calling the legislation “unconstitutional” and “divisive”.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it was a “dark day” in the constitutional history of India and argued that the passage of the “flawed” legislation marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism.

“The Citizenship Amendment Bill is not just an affront to the eternal principles of equality and religious non-discrimination that have been enshrined in our Constitution, but represents a rejection of an India that would be a free nation for all her people, irrespective of religion, region, caste, creed, language or ethnicity,” Gandhi said in a statement.

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