GUWAHATI: Tens of thousands of anti-CAB protesters defied curfew and descended on the streets of Guwahati on Thursday, clashing with police and plunging Assam into chaos of a magnitude unseen since the violent six-year agitation by students that ended with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.
Braving tear gas and police firing and baton charges at several places, people joined the protests spontaneously cutting across political affiliations and in the absence of any political outfit leading them. In the evening, they staged a march to the heavily protected state secretariat and engaged in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.
The protesters come from all walks of life and age groups. The young, especially college students, seemed to be leading the massive upsurge with the elderly and even children joining the march on the streets carrying banners calling for withdrawal of the Bill.
The protests got a fillip on Thursday afternoon when popular theatre artist and film actor Jotin Bora resigned from the BJP, which he had joined last year. Four days ago, Bora had opposed the Bill and urged the government to reconsider it.
Mobs have been pouring out from each lane and swelling by the minute and taking on the security forces in pitched battles like never seen before. Burning tyres, planks, signages, waste paper, they have been undeterred and willing to take on the forces.
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CM, Governor appeal for calm
While political leaders, especially from the ruling BJP, have been at the receiving end of people’s ire in Assam, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal appealed for calm saying “some sections were trying to aggravate the situation using the commoners as bait”. He asked people “not to fall into the trap of a vicious propaganda unleashed in Assam.”
Sonowal said PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have said the Assam Accord would be fully honoured. Asom Gan Parishad leader Prafulla Mahanta, however, said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill had compromised the Assam Accord. He warned that the protests could get out of hand since “people cannot be controlled by lathis.” Mahanta appealed to the President not to give his assent to the Bill.
Governor Jagdish Mukhi, too, urged the people to maintain restraint. The student community, he said, had “every right to agitate but they should do it in a peaceful manner without taking the law in their hands”.