It’s pitch dark in parts of Guwahati, and an eerie silence has descended upon the city that would otherwise be bustling with activity around this time of the year — Christmas lights and people shopping at the busy Guwahati-Shillong road. The once crowded place now wears a desolate look — empty tear gas shells, charred remains of traffic signals and barriers, smoke from a vehicle set to fire sometime ago, and distant voices chanting “Joi Aai Asom”. Protesters have made their stance clear, time and again with “CAB Amaak Nalage... Nalage... Nalage” (We don’t want Citizenship Amendment Bill) slogan.
At a distance, a man warms up by the fire emanating from a burned tyre, and is directing vehicles to take another route — angry protesters have blocked the road at various points. Piercing through the mist is the sound of bullets repeatedly fired at protesters, as thousands take to the streets again, defying curfew and challenging the security forces deployed in the area.
Three persons reportedly died in police firing in Guwahati on Thursday, and scores injured as police resorted to baton charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse protesters. A sea of crowd gathered in Latashil field in a mass protest demonstration against Citizenship Bill by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) that saw overwhelming support by noted Assamese film makers, journalists, actors and musicians. Popular singer Zubeen Garg built up momentum with his satirical number “Politics Nokoriba Bondhu” (Don’t do politics, my friend) that drew thundering applause from the crowd.
“We, Assamese people are not protesting against any community or religion, but against illegal Bangladeshis... This is our Assam, and we will never accept Citizenship Bill,” said AASU Advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya while addressing the gathering.
Calling upon everyone for a peaceful and democratic protest, AASU has decided to hold a 12 hour hunger strike in the Chandmari field in Guwahati on Friday in protest against the Bill. At different parts of Assam, protesters from all walks of life took out rallies and shouted anti-government slogans. The residences of Bharatiya Janata Party and Asom Gana Parishad leaders were targeted by angry protesters across Assam as few incidents of stone pelting were also reported.
Assamese women folk came out in large number to take part in the agitation. A female protester in Guwahati was seen having an argument with a security personnel — “if you are an Assamese, give a thought to our sentiments,” she said as police resorted to blank firing.
“We are running out of ration in this curfew. If the shops don’t open, how do we manage?” asked another protester.
Besides Guwahati, curfew has been imposed in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Golaghat districts where the situation has taken a turn for the worse. The army also conducted flag marches in several places. Eight columns of Indian Army and Paramilitary forces have been deployed across Assam - four in Guwahati, one each in Bongaigaon and Morigaon districts and two companies of Assam Rifles have been deployed in Sonitpur district.
Mobile internet services remain suspended for the next 48 hours in 10 districts of the state, while all government and private schools have been closed till December 22.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal appealed for calm, while trying to convince people in accepting the Bill.
“Our voices failed to move Delhi and Dispur. Now, it’s our movement — people’s movement. Amaak CAB Nalage,” said a local resident of Guwahati as others joined in unison - “Nalage...Nalage (Don’t want, we don’t want).”
First Published: IST