Guwahati– Amidst reports of two protestors dying in police firing, thousands of people defied curfew to hit the streets as the raging agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Bill saw the house of an MLA and a circle office being set ablaze, while the government removed two key police officers on Thursday.
The army conducted a flag march in Guwahati and three districts, and the authorities extended the suspension on Internet services for another 48 hours from 12 noon on Thursday, even as most airlines cancelled flights to and from Dibrugarh and Guwahati, and train movement was halted.
The two protestors with bullet wounds were taken to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, where one was declared dead before the other perished while being treated.
Several others were said to have been injured during the protests which intensified after the controversial legislation was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, two days after it got through the Lok Sabha.
As the state capital Guwahati continued to be the epicentre of the protests, the government removed city police commissioner Deepak Kumar, who was replaced by Munna Prasad Gupta, while state additional general of police (Law and Order) Mukesh Agarwal was also transferred out, making way for G.P. Singh.
In an appeal to the people, state chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal called for maintaining peace and calm.
“I assure the people of Assam full protection to ensure their identity as a whole,” Sonowal said in a statement here, urging the masses to “please come forward and create a situation of peace and tranquility”.
“I hope the people will consider this appeal sensibly,” he said.
However, despite the curfew in Guwahati, thousands of protestors assembled at the Latasil Playground in the city hub to attend a meeting called by All Assam Students Union (AASU), which has been at the forefront of the agitation.
Leading cultural personalities of the state, and other civil society figures joined the protest also called by the Silpi Samaj (artistes forum). Actor Jatin Bora announced his resignation from BJP, while the state headquarters of its partner Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) came under attack.
Officials said protestors set fire to the house of MLA Binod Hazarika’s house in Chabua, and went on rampage torching vehicles and the circle office.
With the situation worsening, two army columns conducted flag marches in Guwahati, while three other columns were out on the streets in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Jorhat districts.
Most flights to and from Guwahati and Dibrugarh have been cancelled by various airlines, while the railways suspended all passenger train services to Assam.
“Indigo Airlines has cancelled one flight to Guwahati from Kolkata. The flights to Dibrugarh are being cancelled by most airlines due to the ongoing protests. However, Indigo will operate a ferry flight to bring back the stranded passengers from Dibrugarh,” an NSCBI Airport spokesperson said.
A Northeast Frontier Railway official said the decision to suspend passenger train operations to Assam and Tripura was taken on Wednesday night in view of the security situation.
A large number of passengers were stranded at Guwahati and Kamakhya with the railways short-terminating long distance trains at Guwahati.