New Delhi: West Bengal was on Saturday marred by violent protests staged against the Citizenship Act. On Friday, the first signs of violence were witnessed in the state, but Saturday saw a large-scale protest with mobs torching buses, trains and railway property while disrupting train and vehicular movements in many parts of the state.

In wake of the protests, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to people to use democratic means of protest and warned that action would be taken against those taking law into their own hands.

“Vandalising public as well as private property in any form will not be tolerated & will strictly be dealt according to law. We urge all to protest against citizenship amendment act & National Register of Citizens (NRC) through democratic means,” Mamata Banerjee said.

The opposition BJP threatened to move the Centre demanding President’s Rule if the “violence” perpetrated by “Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators” went on unchecked.

Violence in Bengal

Murshidabad and Howrah districts witnessed the maximum violence. A number of other districts also bore the brunt of the protester’s fury as the sky was covered with black fumes from burning vehicles and tyres with rampaging mobs armed with rods and sticks laying siege on stations and highways.

A large number of mail, express and passenger trains were cancelled by the South Eastern Railway and Eastern Railway — two important zones of the Indian Railways — which run the services to most parts of the eastern state. At many of the stations, panicky railway employees fled from their posts fearing for their lives.

At Krishnapur station in Murshidabad, a number of trains were attacked, and several coaches were burnt by the protesters, who also torched the Lalgola station in the same district and Harishchandrapur in neighbouring Malda.

Railway equipment kept at Eastern Railway’s Beldanga station was burnt by the protesters, who also damaged a fire brigade engine and set it afire. When police rushed in, they were stoned.

Six buses were torched near Garfa Mor on Kona Expressway in Howrah district, before the police lathicharged to remove the blockade. The highway was also obstructed at Domjur.

Curfew Relaxed in Guwahati, Dibrugarh

Meanwhile, in Assam– the state which is the epicentre of the anti-CAA protest, the administration relaxed the curfew from 9 am to 4 pm in on Saturday. In Dibrugarh too, restrictions were eased till 2 PM noon. It must be noted that the indefinite curfew has been put in place in several parts of Assam as a precautionary measure in view of the violent protests against the passage of Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.

Schools and colleges continue to remain shut. Further, the suspension of internet services has been extended till December 16 to maintain law and order situation in the state.

UGC NET Exam postponed in Assam, Meghalaya

Joint CSIR-UGC NET December 2019 exam at the cities of Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Jorhat, Silchar, Sivasagar, and Tezpur, scheduled for December 15, has been postponed. The revised date of examination will be announced soon, the National Testing Agency (NTA) said in a statement.

Further, UGC NET December 2019 exam scheduled for December 15 in Shillong, Meghalaya has also been postponed.

Protests in the national capital

In Delhi, people from all walks of life gathered at Jantar Mantar to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Moreover, Jamia Millia Islamia students called off their university lockdown against the new citizenship law on Saturday, a day after violent protests rocked the campus area, even as the varsity cancelled exams and announced vacation till January 5 in view of the tension. The university administration said those who indulged in violence and clashed with police on Friday were “outsiders” and not students.

What is the Citizenship Act?

As per the Citizenship Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, and facing religious persecution will be given Indian citizenship.