2 killed as Assam burns over Citizenship Amendment Bill

2 killed as Assam burns over Citizenship Amendment Bill

Guwahati - Police in Assam's main city of Guwahati fired bullets and tear gas against groups of protesters.

By AFP, Reuters

Published: Fri 13 Dec 2019, 9:53 PM

Violent mobs in Assam torched buildings and clashed with police on Thursday, leaving two dead and 11 with bullet wounds, as protests grew against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).
Police in Assam's main city of Guwahati fired bullets and tear gas against groups of protesters, some numbering several hundred, who were demonstrating in the streets, defying a curfew imposed on Wednesday.
Five thousand paramilitary forces were deployed in Guwahati, while many roads and highways were blocked to prevent the spread of protests.
Ramen Talukdar, superintendent of Gauhati Medical College Hospital, said two people had died from gunshot wounds and 11 others injured, also with bullet wounds.
Earlier, officials said 20-30 people have been injured in the demonstrations in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing tear gas and charging the crowds with heavy wooden sticks.
Guwahati's top police officer Deepak Kumar was removed from his post and replaced over the outbreak of violence, authorities said.
Protesters vandalised four railway stations in Assam and tried to set fire to them, a railway spokesman said. All train services to Tripura and Assam were suspended and some flights were cancelled.
Several cricket and football matches scheduled to take place in Assam were called off amid the curfew.
A mob had also set alight the house of local lawmaker Binod Hazarika, from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"They torched it and finished it," the police official said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. "The situation is very bad here."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to calm the situation in a series of tweets that many in the region could not read because mobile internet was blocked in some areas.
"I appeal to the northeast, to Assam and every other state - every community there - to assure that their culture, traditions and language will keep getting the respect and support," he added at a rally at eastern Jharkhand state.
"This is a spontaneous public outburst," said Nehal Jain, a masters student in communications in Guwahati. "First they tell us there are too many illegal immigrants and we need to get rid of them. Then they bring in this law that would allow citizenship to immigrants," she said.
"Assam is not a dustbin so that central government will keep on dumping whoever they want in Assam," Assamese film actress Barsha Rani Bishaya said in Guwahati at a meeting of film and student bodies. "People of Assam have woken up against the CAB this time and they will not accept the CAB."
The Indian Express said the law, which requires presidential assent, unfairly targets India's 170 million Muslims.
"It is a political signal of a terrible narrowing, a chilling exclusion, directed at India's own largest minority. India is to be redefined as the natural home of Hindus, it says to India's Muslims. And that they must, therefore, be content with a less natural citizenship."
Several leaders from Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam have also resigned in opposition to the legislation.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen cancelled a trip to New Delhi hours before he was due to arrive Thursday, citing domestic engagements. He had on Wednesday pushed back against the Indian government's claims the legislation was meant to help those persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, telling local media his country did not oppress minorities.
Amnesty International said the law was "bigoted" and called for it to be immediately repealed.
"In a secular country like India, slamming the door on persecuted Muslims and other communities merely for their faith reeks of fear mongering and bigotry," the global rights groups said in a statement Wednesday. "They also run absolutely foul of India's international obligations."

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