Guwahati: It is 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 a little while ago, and distant voices chanting “Joi Aai Asom”.
Protesters have made their stance clear time and again, and “CAB Amaak Nalage… Nalage… Nalage” (We don’t want Citizenship Amendment Bill) slogan has come to define this uprising.
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.
The police chief said two people died in firing by cops, but protesters say three people were killed in Guwahati on Thursday. Several others were injured as police resorted to baton charge and firing tear gas shells to disperse protesters.
A sea of crowd gathered in Latashil field in a mass demonstration against Citizenship Bill called 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 at 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 lawmakers of the BJP and its ally Asom Gana Parishad were targeted by angry protesters across Assam, and a 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 we would 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 – four in Guwahati, one each in Bongaigaon and Morigaon districts and two companies of Assam Rifles have been deployed in Sonitpur district.
Internet services – both mobile and broadband – have been suspended for the next 48 hours in 10 districts of the state, while all government and private schools have been announced 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).”
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