India shuts down Internet access as protests continue

GUWAHATI, INDIA (AFP) – Internet access was cut in India’s northeastern city of Guwahati yesterday as thousands gathered for fresh protests against a new citizenship law, a day after police shot dead two demonstrators.

Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Yesterday morning, thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on, with residents hurrying out to buy essentials.

No fresh violence was reported but Guwahati and other areas remained littered from the detritus of recent days, with some roads blocked by fallen trees, concrete poles, stones and iron railings. Many cash machines have run out of cash and most petrol stations were also shut.

A local government official said that internet access in the Guwahati, the main city of Assam state, had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.

Protesters during a demonstration against the Indian government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in New Delhi. PHOTO: AFP

The Meghalaya state government has also cut off mobile internet, with parts of the capital Shillong brought under curfew since Thursday evening.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was planning to scrap a visit to the city due to begin tomorrow as the security situation deteriorated, media reported yesterday. The Japanese leader had been slated to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Thursday, police had fired live and blank rounds as thousands of demonstrators in Guwahati and elsewhere took to the streets, some vandalising properties and torching vehicles.

The two demonstrators killed in the city were among around 20 people being treated in hospital, “a few” of whom had gunshot wounds, said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at a Guwahati hospital.

Hundreds of passengers stuck at Guwahati airport were brought to the city on government buses with police escort in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Several thousand troops have been drafted in to help police, who fired tear gas and charged demonstrators with batons, in recent days. Security was increased at the Bangladeshi consulate in Guwahati after a vehicle in the consul’s convoy was attacked on Wednesday by mobs, the foreign ministry in Dhaka said.

“They can’t settle anyone in our motherland. This is unacceptable. We will die but not allow outsiders to settle here,” Manav Das, a protester told AFP yesterday. “We will defeat the government with the force of the people and the government will be forced to revoke the law,” said local activist Samujal Battacharya.