Train station torched in India protests

New Age Desk | Published: 00:05, Dec 14,2019


Jamia Millia Islamia University students stage protests against Citizenship Amendment Bill in New Delhi on Friday. — AFP photo

A railway station complex in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district was set on fire Friday evening by thousands of people protesting against the Indian new citizenship law. The protesters also thrashed personnel of the Railway Police Force who were at the Beldanga railway station complex, reports NDTV.

‘The protesters all of a sudden entered the railway station complex and set the platform, two-three buildings and railway offices on fire. When RPF personnel tried to stop them, they were brutally beaten up,’ a senior RPF official told news agency PTI.

Two protesters were shot dead in Guwahati of Assam state — the epicentre of recent demonstrations — after the Indian parliament passed contentious new citizenship legislation this week.

Several opposition-led states -- including West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab -- have said that they will not allow the implementation of the amended Citizenship Act in their territories.

They have termed the law — which provides for expediting citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from three neighbouring countries — as discriminatory and unconstitutional.

But union home ministry on Friday claimed Individual state governments are not empowered to halt the implementation of a law that comes under the centre’s mandate, sources in the amid a rising chorus of opposition to the amended Citizenship Act.

‘States do not have the power to say ‘no’ to a central law enacted under the Union List of the Constitution’s 7th Schedule,’ a top ministry official said, adding that the granting of citizenship is a central prerogative, reports NDTV.

On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on, with residents hurrying out to buy essentials.

Some roads were blocked by fallen trees, concrete poles, stones and iron railings. Many cash machines have run out of cash and most petrol stations were also shut.

A local government official said that internet access in the Guwahati, the main city of Assam state, had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.

The Meghalaya state government has also cut off mobile internet, with parts of the capital Shillong brought under curfew since Thursday evening.

On Thursday, police had fired live and blank rounds as thousands of demonstrators in Guwahati and elsewhere took to the streets, some vandalising property and torching vehicles.

The two demonstrators killed in the city were among around 20 people being treated in hospital, ‘a few’ of whom had gunshot wounds, said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at a Guwahati hospital.

Hundreds of passengers stuck at Guwahati airport were brought to the city on government buses with police escort in the early hours of Friday morning.

‘They can’t settle anyone in our motherland. This is unacceptable. We will die but not allow outsiders to settle here,’ Manav Das, a protester told AFP on Friday.

For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights groups, it is part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies this.

The US State Department on Thursday urged India to ‘protect the rights of its religious minorities’, according to Bloomberg.

In Kolkata, protesters disrupted traffic for hours at Park Circus and also protested near the airport.

Protesters also blocked tracks at the Uluberia railway station in Howrah district and vandalised the complex and some trains, injuring a driver, reports NDTV.

In the East Midnapore district, BJP General Secretary Sayantan Basu’s car was attacked by protesters and the police had to rescue him.

Hundreds of students from the Jamia Millia Islamia University clashed with police in Delhi on Friday, after they were prevented from taking out a protest march to the Parliament House against the amended Citizenship Act, reports NDTV.

Police detained 50 protesters as the violence spiralled out of control and a ban on large gatherings was imposed in the area. 

Police used tear gas shells and batons in an attempt to disperse the agitating students while they were leaving the university premises. Many media persons were also targeted in the course of the incident.

President Ram Nath Kovind had signed the amended bill on Thursday night, turning it into law.

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