NEWS
12/12/2019 2:06 PM IST | Updated 12/12/2019 3:03 PM IST

Internet Shutdown In Assam Extended, Centre Issues Content Advisory To TV Channels

Guwahati and Dibrugarh district are under curfew.

Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Protestor shout slogans during their march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in Guwahati,India, Dec. 11, 2019. 

Assam is on the boil as thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday night.

Internet services in Assam have been suspended for another 48 hours, beginning from 12 noon on Thursday, additional chief secretary (Home and Political) Kumar Sanjay Krishna said. 

The shutdown, which began at 7pm on Wednesday was supposed to be lifted at 7 pm today. 

Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have also witnessed internet shutdowns in wake of massive protests against the bill.

Protests escalate

On Thursday, some protesters were injured as police opened fire at Lalungaonn area in Guwahati, an official told PTI

 Guwahati and Dibrugarh district are under curfew, while the Army is deployed in Jorhat, officials said.  PTI reported on Wednesday that five columns of the Indian army had been deployed in Assam and three columns of the Assam Rifles in Tripura. Each column consists of 70 soldiers.

Several airlines have cancelled flights to various cities in Assam in wake of the unrest. The Northeast Frontier Railway said all passenger train operations to Assam and Tripura had been suspended in view of security issues.  

On Wednesday night, protestors burnt down Chabua and Panitola railway stations, officials told PTI. Twelve companies of Railway Protection Special Force were dispatched to affected northeast regions to secure railway property, the RPF director-general said.

Meanwhile, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued an advisory asking TV channels to be cautious against airing content that is likely to incite violence, promote “anti-national attitudes” and contain “anything affecting integrity of nation”. 

On Wednesday, protesters attacked the homes of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and other members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party overnight, blaming them for playing politics with a region with a history of ethnic and religious tensions and by opening the floodgates to more outsiders.

“This a spontaneous public outburst,” said Nehal Jain, a masters student in communications in Guwahati, told Reuters. “First they tell us there are too many illegal immigrants and we need to get rid of them. Then they bring in this law that would allow citizenship to immigrants,” she said.

Modi’s assurance

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted assurances to the Assamese people, Congress pointed that none of them could read it since internet had been shut down in large parts of the state.

Of key concern is the legislation’s new citizenship path for six religious groups including Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, but not Muslims, critics said.

The government has said the new law will be followed by a citizenship register that means Muslims must prove they were original residents of India and not refugees from these three countries, potentially rendering some of them stateless. Members of other faiths listed in the new law, by contrast, have a clear path to citizenship.