However, the All Assam Students’ Union has said the movement is spontaneous as people are coming out on their own.
New Delhi: Even as Assam has seen violent protests in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) being passed in Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party has said that though people have the right to protest, violence will not be tolerated. Curfew has been imposed in many parts of the state, and the Indian Army has conducted flag marches in Guwahati and Dibrugarh districts of Assam. As per media reports, four people have died so far in police firing.
As protesters hit the streets to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Assam has been in a state of complete shut down for the last five days. An All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leader, who did not wish to be named, told The Sunday Guardian: “This movement is totally spontaneous as people are coming out on their own. Nobody is protesting under the umbrella of any leadership or organisation. I have not witnessed this kind of protest in my 10 years of student activism.”
Though there have been social media reports that protesters had vandalised the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, a cultural institution, officials of Dispur police station denied any reports of vandalism inside the Kalakshetra premises. A police official investigating the matter told this reporter that protesters had tried to break the gate of the Kalakshetra and attempted to damage nearby property outside the gate of the premises. However, their attempts proved to be unsuccessful, the official said.
Protests had started when the AASU called for a state-wide bandh on 9 December. On 11 December, when the Rajya Sabha gave the green light to CAB, thus becoming an Act, chaos broke out in Guwahati. Thousands of students blocked the city’s arterial Guwahati-Shillong road. Despite repeated lathi-charge by the police, the number of protesters continued to swell as many joined the crowd and marched towards the Assam Secretariat. A Cotton University student told The Sunday Guardian: “As students of the university began marching to the Assam Secretariat, students from other colleges, too, joined our protest. Initially, the protest was peaceful, but when the police started lathi-charge, some protesters resorted to violence by burning down hoardings.”
Meanwhile, protesters tore down the metal road dividers and makeshift stages, which were set up for the upcoming India-Japan summit, and set them on fire. Reports of burning tyres on highways and road blockade also came from various parts of the state. The protests took an ugly turn when some protesters set ablaze the BJP offices in Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Dhemaji. The residence of a BJP MLA was also burnt down by some protesters in Chabua, Dibrugarh. Stone pelting on the residences of BJP leaders were also reported from many districts.
A student of the Dibrugarh University told The Sunday Guardian: “The situation has turned worse since the deployment of military and imposition of curfew in the state. Several government offices have been destroyed. People can hear the firing even at night. It’s a scary situation in Assam.”
Students who spoke to this newspaper wished to remain anonymous because of a looming fear of arrest. Akhil Gogoi, leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, was arrested in Jorhat on Thursday. Besides, Bittu Sonowal, president of Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti, a students’ organisation, was arrested on Friday. Lurin Jyoti Gogoi, AASU general secretary, told The Sunday Guardian that AASU will fight against the bill in every possible manner.
AASU has already filed a petition challenging the controversial CAA in the Supreme Court. BJP spokesperson Aparajita Bhuyan, however, told The Sunday Guardian: “The BJP respects any democratic protest. People have the right to protest. However, the protesters resorting to violence can’t be accepted.”