VIOLENT PROTESTS against the new citizenship law Sunday spilled over to a third day in West Bengal, where protesters vandalised at least 15 railway stations and two local trains, and blocked roads across the state.
And in Assam, where the protests first began last week, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case against activist Akhil Gogoi, whose Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) has been steering the agitation, for alleged links to Maoists. Gogoi was arrested in Jorhat last week.
Scrambling to cope with the spurt in violence, the West Bengal government suspended Internet services in four districts and parts of two others while police resorted to lathicharge to disperse protesters who ransacked shops and burnt tyres to block roads in parts of the state.
Indicating the areas from where unrest was reported, the state government said: “Under the circumstances, left with no other alternative, Internet services are being temporarily suspended in the districts of Uttar (North) Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Howrah, and parts of North 24 Parganas (Basirhat and Barasat subdivisions) and parts of South 24 Parganas (Baruipur and Canning subdivisions).”
Among the railway stations vandalised were those at Murshidabad’s Tildanga, Reginagar, Krishnapur and Monigram, Malda’s Bhaluka, and Birbhum’s Nalhati and Lohapur.
In South 24 Parganas’s Akra railway station, protesters vandalised several rooms, including ticket counters, and targeted two local trains.
Rail services were hit at Diamond Harbour, and at Lalgola and Farakka in Murshidabad. In Farakka, a group led by Congress MLA Moinul Haque took to the streets wielding sticks to disperse a mob that targeted the railway station.
Shops were ransacked and tyres burnt in North 24 Parganas districts, while protests were reported from parts of Howrah, Burdwan and Birbhum.
Senior TMC leader and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee appealed for peace and assured the protesters that the new law would not be implemented in the state. “Do not protest in an undemocratic way. We can assure you that law won’t be implemented in Bengal,” Chatterjee said.
In Guwahati, curfew was relaxed for a few hours even as two youths, who were injured in clashes with security forces last week, succumbed to injuries in hospital, taking the death toll to five.
Senior Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said “day curfew will be withdrawn completely in Guwahati from Monday” while “curfew during nights, from 9 pm to 6 am, will continue”.
As officials confirmed that a complete Internet ban remained in place, thousands of people gathered for two protest demonstrations in Guwahati — one by artists and the other by citizens and intellectuals. No major incidents of fresh violence were reported as the police continued its crackdown on those accused of allegedly committing arson and vandalism last week.