Protests against Indian citizenship law spread to Bengal

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People pelted stones at trains at Uluberia in Howrah, injuring a train driver and some passengers. Several trains on the Howrah-Kharagpur route, like the Coromandel Express and Jaswantpur-Howrah Express, got stranded with passengers on board

The violent protest against the newly-enacted citizenship law has spread to India’s West Bengal. In capital Kolkata, snap demonstration took place at several places, bringing traffic to a standstill. Symbolic copies of the citizenship act were burnt at Park Circus.

People pelted stones at trains at Uluberia in Howrah, injuring a train driver and some passengers. Several trains on the Howrah-Kharagpur route, like the Coromandel Express and Jaswantpur-Howrah Express, got stranded with passengers on board. Demonstrations also stopped local trains at Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas, reports the Hindustan Times.

The protests have been raging in the Northeast for the past three days over the citizenship act amendment through which the government seeks to fast-track the process of giving citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from three naighbouring countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Though no major incident was reported on Friday from Assam, the epicentre of Northeat protest, people participated in peaceful marches in several parts of the state saying their fight against CAA will continue.

Curfew was relaxed in Assam’s Dibrugarh and Meghalaya capital Shillong, but the ripple effect of anger over the hugely divisive law was felt in West Bengal where Beldanga railway station complex was set ablaze in Murshidabad district and RPF personnel were assaulted, according to local media.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, one of the foremost opposition voices against the Citizenship Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC), declared the amended law will not be implemented in West Bengal.

After Punjab, West Bengal and Kerala, Madhya Pradesh also appeared set to reject the amended act, with Chief Minister Kamal Nath asserting in New Delhi that it was part of the Centre’s “politics of distractions” to deflect people’s attention from economic slowdown.

“The stand of the Congress in any law that divides society will be the stand of the MP government,” he said when asked if like West Bengal and Kerala, the Madhya Pradesh government too would reject the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that was signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which has been spearheading the protests in Assam, announced on Friday that it has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the citizenship law in the Supreme Court.

The alumni of Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi onday issued a statement condemning the violence and brutality meted out by the Delhi Police against students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

“There is ample evidence through photographs, videos and ground reports that confirm that the police deliberately injured several students with batons, tear gas, shoes, and stones. While many students have suffered serious head injuries and fractures, dozens of them have been picked up by the Delhi police and taken to various police stations in the city,” the statement read.

Japan PM postpones trip to India

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday postponed traveling for a summit with India’s leader in the violence-wracked northeast, where two people have been killed in ongoing protests over a new law that grants citizenship based on religion and excludes Muslims, reports Reuters.

Abe was scheduled to travel to Assam and Manipur states tomorrow for a three-day trip to discuss security and economic ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Both sides have decided to defer the visit,” Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a statement.

Immigration through Tamabil border suspended

Immigration through Tamabil customs station in Gowainghat upazila of Sylhet came to a sudden halt after a curfew was imposed in Meghalaya state.

Tamabil Customs Deputy Police Inspector Ramzan Mia said: “More than 100 passengers entered India till 11am on Friday but all of them retuned after they were denied entrance to India by the Indian customs.

“Later, an Indian customs official came to the Bangladesh customs and informed that they are not permitting anyone to enter India following the unrest,” Ramzan said.

The Indian customs official requested not to send any Bangladeshi to the Dawki Customs Office of India, he said.

Earlier, mobile internet and SMS services were blocked across Meghalaya for two days, and an indefinite curfew was imposed in parts of capital city Shillong after unrest flared in the state on Thursday over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB, according to NDTV.

Bangladeshi tourists, who prepared for their tour to Meghalaya, faced trouble due to the sudden suspension of immigration through Tamabil. 

Dawki Customs Officer Deklin Renza said they suspended passengers’ entry through the border considering their possible sufferings as all the hotels and shops have been shut in Shillong. 

Bangladeshi tourists will be able to enter India when the situation gets normal, he added.