For the second day in a row, violence continued in Assam over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill which will ease citizenship for refugees — excluding Muslims — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. On Thursday, police opened fire at protesters in Lalung Gaon area of Guwahati, even as mobile internet remains suspended in 10 districts of Assam and Guwahati is under indefinite curfew.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the protests in Assam.
1. The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to give citizenship to Hindu, Parsi, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who came to India by December 31, 2014. It was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday (December 9) midnight, and in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. When the Bill was being discussed in the Rajya Sabha, Assam had already erupted.
2. There have been concerns in Assam and other Northeastern states that giving citizenship to refugees will dilute the local culture and language, and make the indigenous people minorities in their own states. Assam, which has a porous boundary with Bangladesh, has been struggling against the influx of Bangladeshi migrants for years. While most Northeastern states are exempt from the CAB due to the Inner Line Permit System and/or the sixth Schedule of the Constitution, Assam is protected by neither. Most of Assam, and parts of Tripura, will thus be affected by CAB.
3. On Wednesday, as protests raged on and agitators pelted stones and burnt vehicles, the Army had to be deployed and additional forces rushed in from Jammu and Kashmir. Five Army columns have been requisitioned and deployed in Assam. In Tripura, three army columns are deployed. On Thursday, in Dibrugarh’s Chabua, the hometown of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, local MLA Binod Hazarika’s residence was set on fire, PTI reported.
4. No train is going beyond Guwahati in Assam. The North Frontier Railway has cancelled three trains to Guwahati so far, adding that no long-distance train will go beyond Guwahati. Major airlines like IndiGo have announced free cancellation of flights to Guwahati, Dibrugarh, and Jorhat till December 13. Vistara has cancelled all flights to Guwahati and Dibrugarh. All flights have been cancelled from Kolkata (West Bengal) to Dibrugarh. Check all cancelled trains here
5. As the protests continued unabated, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the people of Assam they had “nothing to worry about”. “I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019. I want to assure them-no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow,” he tweeted on Thursday. The Congress hit back, saying people in the state could not read his message with internet suspended.
6. Mobile internet services have been suspended in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup districts of Assam. While the service had initially been snapped till 7pm Thursday, the ban has now been extended for another 48 hours.
7. Day four of the Ranji Trophy games in Guwahati and Agartala was suspended Thursday due to the curfew here. Schools have been shut and government college examinations postponed in both Assam and Tripura.
8. Late Wednesday, the Centre issued an advisory to private TV channels against showing content that “can encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order” or “promotes anti-national attitudes” or anything that can affect the “integrity of the nation”.
9. In Dibrugarh, protesters pelted stones at Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s house and “surrounded” the residence of MP and Union MoS Rameshwar Teli. BJP MPs in Assam have admitted that the situation is worrisome, though they claim the protesters are “misinformed” about the Bill.
10. On Thursday, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen cancelled his three-day visit to India, although he did not attribute a reason for it. He was scheduled to arrive today. On December 15-17, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s annual summit with PM Modi was likely to be held in Guwahati. The government is now learnt to be preparing a Plan B.