Protests over the amended Citizenship Act rocked parts of West Bengal for the third consecutive day on Sunday, prompting the state government to suspend internet services in six districts.
Internet services were suspended in Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and parts of South 24 Parganas districts to prevent rumour-mongering and circulation of fake news, especially on social media, a senior government official said.
“Despite several requests by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, it was found that a few communal outfits have been carrying out violent protests and trying to spread false propaganda.
“In view of the situation, the administration has decided to temporarily suspend internet services in six districts of the state,” the official said.
In South 24 Parganas district, internet services were suspended in Baruipur and Canning sub-divisions, he said.
Incidents of violence, loot and arson were reported from Nadia, Birbhum, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Howrah districts, police said.
A state BJP delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Andal airport in West Burdwan district when he was proceeding to Dumka in Jharkhand to address an election rally.
The delegation apprised him about the “worsening” law and order in West Bengal.
In Amdanga and Kalyani areas of North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts, agitators blocked thoroughfares, and burnt wooden logs on the streets.
Shops were also ransacked and tyres burnt in Deganga area of North 24 Parganas.
In Malda, protestors ransacked the Bhaluka railway station and organised a road blockade. Later, they set railways tracks and offices at Bhaluka station on fire.
In Murshidabad, Sagardighi and Rejinagar railway stations were ransacked by protesters. Several Railway Protection Force (RPF) buses were set on fire and nearby railway quarters were ransacked.
A huge police contingent led by senior officers was rushed to the spot.
The Lalgola railway station was also ransacked.
In Uttar Dinajpur, protesters blocked roads, ransacked buses and vehicles. They also pelted stones at police personnel.
Lohapur station in Birbhum was ransacked and was set on fire. Protesters blocked national highway 34 as protesters burnt wooden logs.
In South 24 Paraganas district, railway services were badly affected at Nungi and Akra stations.
Protesters blocked railway tracks, ransacked Akra station and set fire on railway tracks. A mob also looted money kept at the ticketing counter of the station.
According to officials, when police tried to control the mob, stones were pelted at them, injuring several personnel.
In Nadia, demonstrators blocked the Kalyani Expressway. Some of the agitators were seen burning copies of the amended Citizenship Act.
Similar protests were reported from Domjur area of Howrah district, and parts of Burdwan and Birbhum, with agitators taking out rallies and raising slogans against the Narendra Modi government.
The police and RAF carried out area domination in various parts of Uluberia, including the station area. The police made announcements asking people to maintain law and order.
Huge police contingents have been rushed to the troubled areas to control the situation.
In Burdwan district, several BJP offices were ransacked by protesters.
Twenty-nine express trains have been cancelled in Eastern Railway and North Eastern Frontier sections and several trains are running behind schedule due to blockades, the officials said.
The cost of damages to railway property assessed so far during the protest in Kharagpur division is over Rs 15.77 crore till Saturday, they said.
This includes damage to railway stations and level crossings and excludes revenue loss.
Meanwhile, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) took out peaceful rallies in various parts of the state against the amended Citizenship Act.
Several senior TMC leaders, including ministers, led the rallies, appealing to the people to maintain calm and refrain from engaging in violence.
West Bengal Chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee will hit the streets from Monday against the contentious legislation.
She had said earlier that the amended Citizenship Act will not be implemented in Bengal.
Appealing for peace, senior TMC leader and state education minister Partha Chatterjee also assured the protesters that the amended Act would not be implemented in the state.
“We would appeal to everybody to maintain calm and peace. We can assure you that the law won”t be implemented in Bengal,” he said.
West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh targeted the state government over the move to suspend internet services in the districts.
“This cannot be a step to stop the ongoing unrest in the state. It is nothing but a ploy by the state government to stop the real facts from coming out in the open. They have imposed a ban on internet so that people in other parts of the country do not come to know about the kind of atrocities going on in those places,” he told reporters here.
West Bengal BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu accused the TMC government of doing little to control the deteriorating law and order situation.
According to the amended Citizenship Act, non-Muslim refugees, who came to India before December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be granted Indian citizenship.