The internet has been suspended in parts of Bengal as violent protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, entered a third straight day. Suspension has been announced in Malda, Murshidabad, Uttar Dinajpur and Howrah districts, as well as the Barasat and Basirhat subdivisions in North 24 Paraganas and Baruipur and Canning subdivisions in South 24 Paraganas. This comes a day after five empty trains were set on fire at Lalgola Railway Station in Murshidabad, a sixth at the neighbouring Krishnaganj Station and between 10 and 15 buses were torched in Howrah, which is near state capital Kolkata.
In its statement the Bengal government said that despite repeated requests and advisories "some externally mobilised communal forces (were) inciting violence and conspiring to create disorder".
"Under the circumstances, left with no other alternative, internet services are being temporarily suspended in the districts of Uttar Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Howrah, and parts of North 24 Parganas (Basirhat and Barasat subdivisions) and parts of South 24 Parganas (Baruipur and Canning subdivisions)," the statement said.
According to news agency ANI, the District Magistrate of Malda has suspended internet for a 48-hour period starting 2 pm.
Bengal BJP leader Dilip Ghosh has alleged vandals and arsonists in the state have the support of the ruling Trinamool Congress and that the suspension of internet is a "ploy of the government to prevent the real picture from coming before the public".
Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankar, who has a running feud with the Chief Minister, has called for a press meet at Raj Bhavan at 4 pm. Over the past few days Mr Dhankar has called for calm in the state, pointing out the CAA is now law and had to be obeyed. He has been critical of Ms Banerjee's statement that it will not be implemented in the state.
A Bengal BJP delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi today, briefly, to apprise him of the law and order situation in the state. Led by General Secretary Biswapriya Roy Chowdhury, the delegation met the PM at an airport in Paschim Bardhaman district where he had a stopover on his way to an election rally in Jharkhand.
Violence, vandalism and arson have swept across Bengal since protests broke out against the CAA in the North East on Wednesday.
This morning South Eastern Railway announced the cancellation of 15 trains, including the Howrah Express from Tirupati and Ernakulam. Ten other trains, including the Shalimar Express from Thiruvananthapuram, were partially cancelled.
There have also been reports of road blocks from three areas in North 24 Paraganas - Deganga, the Khardah-Kalyani Expressway and Amdanga, as well some in Birbhum and Murshidabad.
Peace marches have been taken out by the Congress and the ruling Trinamool Congress, with senior leaders, including ministers, at the forefront.
Alongside the violence a political blame-game has erupted in the state, with the opposition BJP accusing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress of failing to control the law and order situation and, instead, actively encouraging its breakdown.
On Saturday the Chief Minister, who is one of three (the others are from Punjab and Kerala) to declare the CAA would not be implemented in their states, appealed for calm. She reminded protesters to not create any disturbance or get involved in any kind of violence.
"Don't block road and rail. Harassment of ordinary public will not be tolerated. Those creating trouble and taking law into their hands will not be spared. Those setting fire to buses, pelting trains and damaging public property will face action," she stated.
Mobile and internet services have already been suspended till Monday in 10 districts of neighbouring Assam, where at least four people have died and thousands took to the streets in defiance of a curfew. The Army has also been called out to parts of the North East to control the protests.
The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, was passed earlier this week, after a heated debate in parliament - Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien said it was from the "Nazi copybook" and the Congress's Anand Sharma said it "hurts the very soul of the Constitution".
With input from PTI, ANI