India

Bengal Rages Over Citizenship Act, Mamata Banerjee Appeals For Calm

Bengal Rages Over Citizenship Act, Mamata Banerjee Appeals For Calm

Protestors block a railway track at Uluberia Station during their agitation. (PTI)

New Delhi:

Protesters continued to block road and rail in different parts of West Bengal on Saturday, intensifying the agitation over the amended Citizenship Act that has witnessed violent protests in the Northeast, particularly Assam where two people were killed in police firing after thousands descended on the streets in defiance of a curfew.

The National Highway 34, which connects north and south Bengal, was blocked in Murshidabad that borders Bangladesh. Several other roads in the district were also blocked, news agency PTI reported.

The protests continue despite both Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar appealing for peace. "Don't block road and rail. Harassment of ordinary public will not be tolerated. Those creating trouble and taking law into their own hands will not be spared. Those setting fire to buses, pelting trains and damaging public property will face action," Ms Banerjee made a fresh appeal to protesters. Mr Banerjee is one of the most vocal critics of the Citizenship Act and has warned that she will not allow its implementation in her state "under any circumstances".

Barring West Bengal situation remained fairly calm in other states in the region. In Guwahati, which saw violent protests over the contentious law, administration briefly lifted curfew imposed in the city earlier this week. The curfew has been relaxed from 9 am to 4pm, a police spokesperson said. Police are using loudspeakers to inform the public about the relaxation, he added. Schools and offices, however, remained shut.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Guwajhati next week, but Mr Abe cancelled his visit to the country amid violent protests over the contentious law.

Schools and colleges in Nagaland remained closed, and markets were shut and vehicles remained largely off roads amid a six-hour shutdown call given by the Naga Students'' Federation (NSF), officials said. No incident has been reported so far from the Naga inhabited areas where the shutdown began at 6 am, they added.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which intends to make it easier for non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to obtain Indian citizenship, has been accused by rights groups and opposition parties of being discriminatory and violating the constitutional right to equality.

With inputs from PTI

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