Guwahati: At least 85 people have been arrested and 2,000 taken into preventive custody by Assam Police in the wake of the violent protests across the state against the Citizenship Amendment Act even as top security officials stressed they are not against any democratic protests and that the situation was under control.
“We are not against any democratic and peaceful protest. However, the police will act strongly against anyone taking the law into their hands,” Assam Director General of Police (DGP) Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta told ThePrint.
He said those indulging in violence have been identified through videos and more arrests and detentions will take place.
“Eighty-five individuals have been arrested by the police and 2,000 taken into detention following the violence. We have identified more trouble-makers through numerous videos and they will face the music too,” he said.
The arrested individuals include Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi, who security officials allege is one of the instigators of the violent protests.
At least two people have been killed and 25 injured in police firing following violent protests in Guwahati on 12 December against the new citizenship act that seeks to fast-track citizenship to persecuted minorities coming to India from three neighbouring countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Muslims have been left out of the law’s ambit.
Questioned whether the police have been asked to show restraint against protesters, the DGP said, “The police have been showing absolute restraint. They had to resort to lathi charge and live fire to quell the violence that had taken place.”
He added that “bad elements” had crept into the protests and indulged in violence.
“Some people with evil intention have joined the protests. They will be acted upon,” he said.
Large number of police transfers in Assam
A large number of transfers have been carried out in the police department in the wake of the protests.
Guwahati police commissioner Deepak Kumar has been removed and Munna Prasad Gupta has been appointed in his place.
Assam’s additional general of police (Law and Order) Mukesh Agarwal has also been replaced by NIA officer G.P. Singh who is from the Assam-Meghalaya IPS cadre.
The DGP said that the transfers are been conducted in phased manners and also includes various station house officers (SHOs).
Booze shops and internet to remain shut
DGP Mahanta said that orders have been issued asking the excise department to ensure that all liquor vends, both legal and illegal are shut completely.
The police say that many violent protesters were under the influence of alcohol.
Asked when internet services will resume, he said “that is not my decision to take”.
While initially only mobile internet was suspended, the police has now also shut down broadband services for fear of “misuse”.
Not afraid of ULFA
Amid fears that banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) will take advantage of the situation, the DGP said the police does not fear the organisation that is synonymous with state’s violent past.
Asked if there was a fear that ULFA will take advantage, a visibly upset police chief shot back saying, “What kind of question is that? The Assam Police is not afraid of the ULFA”.
On the fears that the banned organisation will try and exploit the situation, he said, “That is the job of the ULFA. They will always try to take advantage but we are ready.”
‘Army is for show’
Assam has witnessed unprecedented deployment of central forces in the wake of the protests. The DGP said that 55 companies of central forces have been deployed in the state.
“The Army is for show. They are not involved in law and order duties except carrying out some flag marches,” the top police officer said when asked if the 55 Companies included those from the Army too.
While a higher number of security personnel were deployed for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process, their deployment was preventive in nature.
This time, however, the deployment was undertaken to quell the violence, with CAPFs being brought in from different parts of the country, including Kashmir.
Several columns of the Army were also deployed to carry out flag marches.