Protests in Assam against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 refuse to abate as thousands defied the indefinite curfew imposed in Guwahati.
The passing of the Citizenship Bill in the Parliament has plunged the northeast, especially the state of Assam, into deep chaos with locals and students hitting the streets in thousands, burning tyres and wooden logs prompting the administration to impose curfew in Guwahati and suspend mobile internet services in 10 districts of the state.
Army and paramilitary forces have been deployed in the region to bring the situation under control.
To control the deteriorating law and order situation in Assam, eight columns of the Indian Army were on Thursday deployed in Assam and Tripura as per the requests made by the governments of the two states.
Five columns, each consisting of 70 soldiers and one or two officers, were deployed in Assam, while three columns have been deployed in Tripura.
Meanwhile, the violent protests have brought road, rail and air traffic to a standstill.
At least 30 trains have either been cancelled, short terminated or diverted anticipating “disruptions in train movement,” Railway said in a statement.
According to RD Vajpayee, Director (Media), Indian Railways, no long-distance train is going beyond Guwahati.
“All these trains are being short terminated at Guwahati and will commence return journey from Guwahati at their scheduled time,” he said.
He said from Delhi and other parts of the country, trains going towards the Northeast Frontier will go normally but return from Guwahati.
“Some of the trains whose linked rakes could not be returned from NFR will stand cancelled from Delhi and other parts of the country. Names of these rakes will be notified by concerned Railways. So far, the NR has cancelled three such trains with journey commencing dates on December 15, 16 and 17.”
Flights too have been cancelled in the area.
IndiGo informed on Twitter that it has cancelled all flights to and from Dibrugarh for Thursday “due to the prevailing situation in Assam”.
SpiceJet and GoAir have offered waiver of cancellation fees for all flights to and from Guwahati and Dibrugarh for travel till December 13, “due to ongoing unrest in Assam”.
Vistara said it has also cancelled the flights to and from Guwahati and Dibrugarh till December 13, as per government advice due to current disturbances in Assam.
“Due to the ongoing unrest in Assam, we are waiving rescheduling/cancellation fee to the customers travelling to and from Guwahati and Dibrugarh till December 13,” the airline tweeted.
Meanwhile, students’ body AASU and peasants organisation KMSS have asked people to step out of their homes and protest against the Citizenship Bill.
“This fight against the bill will be very long. We urge people to come out and join the protest gathering at 11 am at Latashil field in Guwahati,” All Assam Students” Union (AASU) chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya told reporters.
Meanwhile, Gauhati and Dibrugarh Universities have postponed all examinations scheduled till December 14.
Amid the protests, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has appealed to the people of the state to maintain peace. “I appeal to the people to maintain peace and not get misled.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Chief Minister remained stuck at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport here for hours after landing in the state capital from Tezpur, as his convoy could not roll out due to the massive protests.
The protests, which had started days back, intensified during the day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the legislation in the Upper House of the Parliament.
The protesters tried to march towards the state Secretariat here and threw bricks at the police and burnt tyres on the roads, creating a volatile situation. Secretariat employees also expressed solidarity with the protesters.
The protesters, including a large number of students, forcibly shut down shops and markets and damaged a fire brigade vehicle till they were stopped by BSF, Rapid Action Force and police personnel about 500 metres from the Secretariat.
The security personnel retaliated by resorting to lathi-charge, using water cannons, firing rubber bullets and lobbing tear gas shells.
In the wake of the violent protests, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has directed all private TV channels to be cautious in airing content which is likely to encourage or incite violence, news agency IANS reported.
In an advisory to TV channels issued on Wednesday, the I&B Ministry said that “It is reiterated that all TV channels are advised to be particularly cautious with regard to any content which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitudes”.
The advisory applies to “Any content which contains anything affecting the integrity of the nation, and ensure that no such content is telecast which is violative of these Codes”.
“All private satellite TV Channels are requested to ensure strict compliance of the advisory”, it added.