Police resort to baton charge to disperse protesters who became violent during their march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati. (PTI Photo)
Late on Thursday, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Bill even as violent protests continued to rock the state. Two people were killed and over 20 injured in alleged police firing. The law will grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014. It leaves out Muslims. The protests also spilt over to neighbouring Meghalaya after vehicles were vandalised and set ablaze in Police Bazaar and Iew Duh areas, resulting in the imposition of curfew in all neighbourhoods that include areas under Sadar PS and Lumdiengjri PS. Mobile internet and messaging services were suspended for 48 hours from 5 pm on Thursday.
On Thursday, Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal issued separate appeals for peace. Sonowal requested protesters to not take the path of violence and asked leaders of the agitation to engage in dialogue with him. But in Dibrugarh’s Chabua, the home town of Sonowal, officials said protesters vandalised the Circle office and the railway station. With protesters also targeting another station in Panitola, the Centre suspended rail services in Assam and Tripura, halted long-distance trains to the region in Guwahati, and deployed 12 companies of the Railway Protection Special Force.
Caught unaware Wednesday as the protests escalated sharply, the state government Thursday shunted out top police officers, including the Additional Director General (Law and Order) and Guwahati Police Commissioner.
Sources said police in Jorhat have arrested Akhil Gogoi, who heads the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), which is one of the organisations involved in the protests.
However, speaking to The Indian Express, a top police officer in the state said the situation on the ground continued to be “grim”. Another senior officer said the “situation is under control but clashes are happening all over the state”.