Curfew has been imposed in Guwahati and Dibrugarh in Assam after massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Wednesday.
The Indian Army was sent to Assam and the paramilitary force, the Assam Rifles, was deployed in Tripura. The news agency PTI quoted a defence spokesperson saying the army would be deployed in Guwahati on Wednesday night.
The Assam government suspended mobile internet in ten districts, including the state capital, for 24 hours starting 7 pm Wednesday. On Tuesday, Tripura government had suspended mobile internet for 48 hours in the state.
Two columns of the Assam Rifles were dispatched to Kanchanpur and Manu areas in North Tripura on Tuesday, an army spokesperson told ANI. A third column is on standby at Bongaigaon in Assam. There are about 70 personnel in each column. The Army said field commanders and staff at the army headquarters were “monitoring the situation closely”.
In Guwahati, visuals showed protestors burning billboards with pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, flying in from Tezpur, was stranded at the Guwahati airport for hours because of the protests.
Protestors vandalised Chabua and Panitola railway stations, setting fire to properties there, ANI reported. Dibrugarh and Tinsukia railway stations, also in Upper Assam, have been put on high alert.
Around 5,000 paramilitary troops were flown to the North East on Wednesday, PTI reported. Twenty paramilitary companies were being moved from Jammu and Kashmir to Assam, for which a special train had been arranged, according to ANI.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill aims to make non-Muslim migrants from Bangaldesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan eligible for citizenship in India. Groups in the North East fear that once the bill is passed, populations defined as indigenous to the region will be culturally and physically swamped by migrants.
On Wednesday, protestors turned out in large numbers in several districts in Assam, including Jorhat, Golaghat, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, and Sivasagar, even though there was no formal call for a strike by any organisation. They burned tyres and placed logs on roads and railway tracks to stop vehicular and train movement across the state, said unidentified police officials.
The Assam government announced suspension of mobile internet for 24 hours starting 7 pm Wednesday in the districts of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup.
Earlier in the day, the police fired rubber bullets and launched baton charges in order to disperse protestors in Moran, a town in Dibrugarh district. Officials also resorted to baton charges to disperse demonstrators in the Chaulkhowa area of the district.
A journalist was injured in stone-pelting in Dibrugarh district, the police said, adding that security personnel used tear gas shells to control crowds.
The Northeast Frontier Railway cancelled several trains and rescheduled a few that begin their journey from the state. At least 14 scheduled trains were either cancelled, diverted, or short-terminated in anticipation of the protests, Northeast Frontier Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Subhanan Chanda said in a statement.
Out of the 14, eight trains – LedoGuwahati Intercity Express, Dibrugarh Furketing Guwahati Intercity Express, Naharlagun Tinsukia Intercity Express and Dekargaon Dibrugarh Intercity Express – were cancelled and others were short-terminated.
Intense protests had broken out in several states of the North East on Tuesday, with internet and SMS services being shut down in Tripura for 48 hours. The North East Students’ Organisation, an umbrella body of students’ organisations, observed a strike in the region from 5 am to 4 pm in protest against the bill.
Security was stepped up in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura on Tuesday. Normal life came to a halt in Arunachal Pradesh. Schools, colleges, banks and markets were closed, and private vehicles stayed off the roads.