Violent protests and street arson seemed to be simmering down in Assam on Friday with the administration claiming that no major incidents of violence were reported in Guwahati, and agitation leaders announcing that the protests will be held only during the day.
Indefinite curfew and internet suspension remained in place in 10 districts.
Thousands of people, including student leaders, culture icons, and public intellectuals gathered at the 10-hour hunger strike, called by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), at Assam Engineering Institute ground in Chandmari. AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said, “We have announced that protests will be held in daytime till 5pm for a week and normal life will continue parallel to the protest movement. Schools, educational institutes and offices will continue and the protest movement will also continue.” Gogoi said the students’ body has approached the Supreme Court against the citizenship law.
Shops and petrol pumps opened in Guwahati after three days and people queued up to purchase essentials. The state government also set up helplines and arranged bus services for stranded passengers from different railway stations.
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“Protests in Assam turned violent at a number of places leading to law and order situation. 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 in Guwahati and two in Sonitpur,” an Army spokesperson said.
Kamrup (Metro) DC Biswajit Pegu said, “Essential services are exempt from the curfew in the city. On Friday, no major incidence of unruly situation has been reported. Some items have become bit costlier at the shops.”
Additional DGP (Law and Order) G P Singh told The Indian Express on Friday afternoon that the number of casualties due to violence remained two, as reported on Thursday.
Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal blamed opposition Congress, “ultra Left” and “communal forces” for the widespread violence, saying strong action will be taken against those involved in arson and vandalism during the anti-citizenship law protests. Sonowal also said the violence was part of a political conspiracy against the BJP-led government in Assam and asserted that he was committed to protecting the rights of the indigenous people of the state.
Meanwhile, three policemen and at least 63 protesters were injured in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong on Friday after thousands of protesters attempted to storm into the Governor’s House as police resorted to lathicharge and tear gas shelling to disburse the crowd, a senior police officer said.