Road and rail blockades continued in West Bengal on Monday as protests over the citizenship law continue to increase, amid a warning by state authorities and appeal from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, even as 354 people were arrested. Internet services have been shut down in six districts of the state, Malda, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Uttar Dinajpur, Murshidabad, and Howrah.
The TMC chief, who led a mega rally from Red Road to Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral house of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in north Kolkata, urged the agitators to not indulge in vandalism and arson and said it will only undermine the very motive of the protest.
“If you indulge in violence, you cause a lot of inconvenience to the common people. Those who support your cause gets angry, and you would lose their support,” Banerjee said.
The protesters blocked thoroughfares in East Midnapore, Murshidabad, Malda, Nadia and North 24 Parganas districts. In Malda, the agitators protested outside Shamsi railway station. In Rajarhat area of North 24 Paraganas, protesters blocked roads and also torched tyres on the Biswa Bangla Sarani.
In West Midnapore district’s Daspur, protestors shouted slogans, burnt copies of the amended Citizenship Act and blocked roads, setting tyres on fire. The protesters also blocked National Highway 12 in Nadia district. In Nakasipara area, they gathered in large numbers and blocked roads.
Several trains were cancelled or delayed as a result of the protests. A railways spokesperson said demonstrators blocked the tracks in Sealdah-Diamond Harbour and Sealdah-Namkhana sectors.
Train services in Tamluk-Haldia section of South Eastern Railway were also disrupted due to a blockade at Basulya Sutahata station. Haldia-Howrah EMU local was detained, while Howrah-Haldia EMU local was short terminated at Panskura.
Train services in Howrah-Amta section were also disrupted for about four hours, leading to the cancellation of some EMU locals.
The chief minister alleged that a few people were paid by the BJP to perpetrate violence, even as she reiterated that citizenship law and the proposed NRC will not be enforced in the state.
“As long as I am alive, I will never implement the citizenship law or NRC in the state. You can very well dismiss my government or put me behind bars but I will never implement this black law. We will continue to protest democratically till this law is scrapped. If they want to implement it in Bengal they will have to do it over my dead body,” she said hitting out at the Centre.
BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the kind of violent protests that are taking place in the state clearly show that there is a need for implementing NRC and the citizenship law.
Denouncing the “communal politics” of the BJP and the ruling TMC, the CPI(M)-led Left Front took out peace rallies in various parts of the state.
Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury visited some of the damaged railway stations in Murshidabad, his hometown, and hit out at the state government, saying it has failed in controlling the violence.
“The police and district administration are not taking any action against the agitators because there is no instruction from the state government to do so,” he said.
Senior Congress leader and MP Pradip Bhattacharya demanded that the state government should immediately convene an all-party meeting in order to resolve the crisis.
Students of the Jadavpur University and Presidency varsity took out separate rallies in the state capital, condemning police action inside the Jamia Millia Islamia campus in Delhi.
Internet services continued to remain suspended in Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and parts of South 24 Parganas.
The West Bengal government has asked media houses to exercise caution while reporting incidents of violence in the state. Through an official order, it also stayed all activities relating to the preparation and updation of the National Population Register (NPR) in the state.