GUWAHATI/NEW DELHI: While Assam witnessed a violence-free day on Friday though agitators continued to defy curfew to organise protests, a massive rally heading to the Meghalaya Governor’s residence in Shillong against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act turned violent, leaving several injured.
Protests against the new law also spread to West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh and even New Delhi, prompting Home Minister Amit Shah to cancel his visits to Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh scheduled for Sunday-Monday.
The Meghalaya rally had been organised by the Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisations (COMSO), an umbrella outfit of student bodies, which is demanding extension of the inner line permit regime to the state.
Meanwhile, violence escalated in Bengal with protestors targeting four railway stations and engaging in arson.
A rail maintenance car was set afire while suburban train services out of Kolkata were hit, particularly on the 24-Parganas route, with the tracks being blocked at several places.
In Kolkata, 17 minority organisations took out a rally and set up blockades in the city, hours after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the CAB will not be implemented in West Bengal.
The protests paralysed train services on the Howrah- Kharagpur section for hours. People in the minority-dominated districts of rural Howrah, Murshidabad, Birbhum, parts of Burdwan and North Bengal hit the streets, raising slogans against the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre.
In Arunachal, university students boycotted exams and hit the streets under the banner of the Students Union of NERIST (SUN).
In Uttar Pradesh, the government ordered a clampdown in Aligarh, the seat of the Aligarh Muslim University, after students and teachers joined protests.
Internet and mobile connectivity were promptly shut down. Students of the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi took out a march to Parliament to register their protest and clashed with the police.
The administration unsuccessfully tried to restrict the students to the university campus and the Delhi Metro cut passenger access at Patel Chowk and Janpath to stop the students from congregating at the protest site.
In Shillong, curfew imposed in parts of the city after violence on Thursday was relaxed on Friday for 12 hours from 10 am to 10 pm, though curbs on internet and mobile services continued. In Assam, curfew continued in Guwahati, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Dhemeji and Lakhimpur north and south.
Guwahati seemed to be limping back to normalcy with no untoward incident reported since Thursday night, which had claimed three lives. In all, eight columns of the Army and paramilitary forces stayed on vigil and staged flag marches in Assam.
However, calls by the All Assam Students Union and Silpi Samaj to defy curfew and stage an 11-hour sit-in at Chandmari received overwhelming support with thousands of people joining in, among them well-known film stars, intellectuals, litterateurs, artistes and singers.
AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya said the party had filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the CAB.
Pleas in Supreme Court
A clutch of petitions, including those by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, were filed in the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the CAB’s validity,
Cities in Assam reported massive scarcity of essential commodities, even as air and train services remained partially cut off. Even hospitals reported shortages of emergency drugs and oxygen
Fundamentally discriminatory: UNHRC
The United Nations’ human rights body on Friday called the CAB fundamentally discriminatory. “We are concerned that India’s new Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 is fundamentally discriminatory in nature,” UN human rights spokesman Jeremy Laurence said in Geneva.
These amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality, he added.