Five empty trains were set on fire at the Lalgola railway station in West Bengal's Murshidabad district on Saturday evening as protesters continued to block road and disrupt rail services in different parts of the state over the amended Citizenship Act, which has seen 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. Situation in the Northeastern states, however, largely remained peaceful with restrictions imposed in sensitive areas being briefly relaxed.
Hundreds of people blocked roads in and around the Sankrail railway station in Howrah this morning and set a portion of a railway station complex on fire. They also set a few shops on fire, news agency PTI reported, quoting police sources. "Later in the afternoon, they entered the station complex and set the ticket counter on fire. When RPF and railway personnel tried to stop them, they were beaten up," a Railway Protection Force official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Protesters squatted on the railway tracks at Poradanga, Jangipur and Farakka stations in Murshidabad district and Bauria and Nalpur stations disrupting rail services in the South Eastern Railway in Howrah district, news agency IANS reported. Fifteen buses, including three state buses, were set on fire by the protestors after they forced out the passengers.
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 hands will not be spared. Those setting fire to buses, pelting trains and damaging public property will face action," Ms Banerjee said in a fresh appeal to protesters today. Ms 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".
.@MamataOfficial. Distressed and pained at events unfolding in the State. Chief Minister as per oath has to ‘bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India..' and I as Governor will ‘to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law'- Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) December 14, 2019
Barring West Bengal, the 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. But Internet services across Assam were suspended till December 16 to prevent alleged misuse of social media in disturbing peace and to maintain law and order in the state, officials said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Guwahati 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