Northeast is on the boil as protests over the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill continue across various parts of the region. Two deaths were reported from Assam on Thursday as police firing continued to quell protests against the citizenship bill. Thousands descended on the streets and defied curfew even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the state of safeguarding their rights.
Several towns and cities were placed under indefinite curfew, including Guwahati, the epicenter of protests, besides Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Dhekiajuli. Night curfew was imposed in Jorhat, Golaghat, Tinsukia and Charaideo districts, officials said.
Two persons were shot dead by security forces in Guwahati, which has turned into a garrison town with Army, paramilitary and state police personnel present in every nook and corner.
An official of the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital said that one person was brought dead and another succumbed to injuries during treatment. However, protesters claimed three people had died in police firing. Hospital sources said 11 people were brought there with gunshot injuries.
Incidents of police firing were reported from several places in Guwahati including Hatigaon, Lachitnagar, Bashishta, Downtown, Ganeshguri and Lalungaon.
Frenzied mobs blocked roads with burning discarded tyres and menaced commuters by bludgeoning their vehicles with sticks and stones.
In a series of tweets, in both Assamese and English, the prime minister said he personally and the central government are "totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people as per the spirit of Clause 6."
Clause 6 of the Assam Accord guarantees to safeguard local rights, language and culture.
"I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB (sic)," Modi wrote on the microblogging site.
"No one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow," he said as the state plunged deeper into chaos and violence.
Notwithstanding his words of comfort, internet services in 10 districts were suspended for another 48 hours beginning 12 pm to prevent "misuse" of social media to disturb peace and tranquility, and to maintain law and order, officials said.
Internet services will remain suspended in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup, Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Political department) Sanjay Krishna said.
Mobile internet and messaging services were also suspended in neighbouring Meghalaya for 48 hours since 5 pm on Thursday after incidents of vandalisation of vehicles.
Areas under two police stations in Meghalaya capital Shillong were placed under curfew.
Though no major incident of violence was reported from Tripura, state capital Agartala observed a shutdown, with educational institutions and offices closed.
The Railways has suspended all passenger train services in Tripura and Assam and short-terminated long-distance trains to the region at Guwahati following protests in the two states over the passage of CAB, a railway spokesperson said in New Delhi on Thursday.
The decision was taken on Wednesday night in view of the security situation in the region, Northeast Frontier Railway spokesperson Subhanan Chanda said, adding many passengers are stranded in Kamakhya and Guwahati.
After a railway station in Dibrugarhs Chabua, the hometown of the Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was set on fire late Wednesday night besides the Panitola railway station in Tinsukia, 12 companies of the Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) have been dispatched to the region, RPF chief Arun Kumar said in the national capital.
"Passengers are stranded and we are trying to help them as much as possible. We are mulling to run special trains to ferry these passengers, but are still weighing if the risk is worth it.
"It might be a security threat for passengers if protesters stop the trains. As of now all passenger trains have been suspended and trains from outside the region are being short terminated at Guwahati," Chanda said.
An unspecified number of flights to the northeast including Guwahati were rescheduled or cancelled, an official of the Kolkata airport said.
As protests continued, the Information and Broadcasting ministry issued an advisory to private satellite TV channels to be cautious about airing content is likely to incite violence, promote anti-national attitudes and contain anything affecting the integrity of the nation.
The advisory was issued after some TV channels showed footage of violent protests.
Heads rolled in the police establishment because of incessant protests with the states BJP government removing Guwahati Police commissioner Deepak Kumar and appointing Munna Prasad Gupta in his place.
Additional director general of police (law and order) Mukesh Agarwal was also transferred and replaced by ADGP (CID) GP Singh.
Police also opened fire at Madhavdham in Tezpur when a person allegedly belonging to a Hindu right organisation ploughed his vehicle through a group of protesters, injuring four people. Protesters overpowered the man, set his vehicle ablaze and assaulted him, prompting police firing, an official said.
RSS offices were vandalised in Amolapatty in Golaghat, besides places like Dibrugarh, Sadiya and Tezpur.
Residences of Handloom Minister Ranjit Dutta at Behali, and BJP MLAs Padma Hazarika at Sootea and Binod Hazarika in Chabua were also attacked.