The Assam government is committed to protecting "genuine" Indian citizens, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said today in a lengthy video appeal for peace posted on his Twitter account. Mr Sonowal, whose state has seen massive and violent protests over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, in the past week, is expected to shortly meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss agitations that have seen at least four killed and thousands protesting on the streets despite a curfew.
In his appeal the Chief Minister also hit out at "elements" who were seeking to politicise the CAA, encourage violence and hamper the development of the state.
"I call upon all sections of the society to thwart the elements who are misleading the people on #CAA & indulging in violence and together continue the growth journey of Assam," Mr Sonowal said in his statement delivered in Assamese.
We are committed to protect all genuine Indian citizens and the rights of the people of Assam.— Sarbananda Sonowal (@sarbanandsonwal) December 15, 2019
I call upon all sections of the society to thwart the elements who are misleading the people on #CAA & indulging in violence and together continue the growth journey of Assam. pic.twitter.com/RTGeWO2QCI
The Chief Minister's statement comes a day after a key ally of the ruling BJP has decided to oppose the CAA. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which had supported the Citizenship Bill in parliament, has indicated it could approach the Supreme Court against the act; it announced its stand after a meeting of senior leaders.
The opposition Congress has expressed reservations about the AGP's stance, calling it eyewash.
"This is AGP's eyewash because the people of Assam have revolted in such a way that many stalwart leaders of AGP have resigned. AGP leadership is divided. Finding no alternative, they are doing this. AGP is in connivance with the BJP," Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora told news agency ANI.
Addressing an election rally in Jharkhand today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the people of Assam for "keeping away from violence" and accused the Congress and its supporters of "spreading fire".
Violence, arson and vandalism have swept across Assam even as the Citizenship Bill was being debated in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, with thousands of students and civil society members clashing with cops in Guwahati and parts of the state.
This morning two more people died of gunshot wounds from police firing to quell protests. At least 27 others have been admitted to hospitals like the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
However, levels of violence have dropped in the state and curfews have been relaxed in several areas, including the state's largest city, Guwahati.
On Saturday incidents of stone-pelting, torching of vehicles and destruction of property were recorded. Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, the Director-General of Police (Assam), said "bad elements" who had infiltrated the protests to create disturbances had been arrested; more than 85 people had been arrested.
The violence has also spilled over into neighbouring West Bengal, where trains were set on fire and roads blocked. Internet services in some districts were suspended today; according to ANI it has been suspended for a 48-hour period in Malda district.
With input from ANI