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Talks possible only with democratic protesters: Assam govt
The Assam government hinted at talks with ‘peaceful protesters’ even as curfew during day time has been lifted from Assam’s main city Guwahati, which had been the hotbed of anti-CAA protests in the state, though internet services remained suspended in the state for the sixth day on December 16.
Curfew in different other parts of the state will also be lifted at the earliest, while a high-level enquiry will be instituted to probe the violence during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, that had rocked the state since December 11.
Train services continued to be affected with anti-CAA protests in neighbouring West Bengal leading to cancellation of all trains to eastern and southern parts from Northeast region since December 15.
Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “There has been improvement in the situation in Guwahati, and hence, curfew will only remain from 9pm to 6am hours from December 16. And it will be completely withdrawn after some days.”
“Deputy commissioners of the districts where curfew is in force have been instructed to withdraw it as early as possible,” he added.
Besides Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Dhekiajuli were under indefinite curfew, with the curfew relaxed during day in Dibrugarh, and altogether lifted in Tezpur and Dhekiajuli on December 16.
A few other districts, including Jorhat, Charaideo, Tinsukia and Golaghat, have clamped curfew during the night hours.
Sarma further informed that four people had died in clashes with police or police firing in Guwahati, and 23 others were admitted at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) with injuries, out of which 13 have already been discharged and the rest were also out of danger.
Altogether 136 cases have been registered in the state over the latest violence and 190 arrests have already been made, with the number of arrests likely to increase as investigations proceed.
On the violence in Guwahati from December 10-12, the minister said, “The government has taken the matter very seriously. We shall soon announce a special enquiry to unearth who were behind these. We are examining camera footages, social media posts and other evidence. We will examine whether the protesters came out spontaneously or was there any motive involved.”
The vandalism of Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, the gherao of state secretariat and the mob violence at Haitgaon area in the city will especially be investigated for any specific pattern, Sarma said.
On resumption of mobile internet services, which was suspended on the evening of December 11, Sarma said it will be restored ‘within a short span of time’, depending on the feedback during daily law and order situation review.
The senior minister further said the government will not stop peaceful protesters, maintaining that ‘those involved in democratic agitation are not adverse to political dialogue’.
“The Centre will definitely reach out to the protesters at some point of time,” he said.