India protest hot spot Guwahati offline as two demontrators are shot dead

Indian soldiers patrolling during a curfew following protests over the government's Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati on Dec 12, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

GUWAHATI, INDIA (AFP) - Internet access has been cut in India's north-eastern city of Guwahati after violent protests over a new citizenship law saw two demonstrators shot dead by police, the authorities said on Friday (Dec 13).

The protests follow the approval of legislation that many in the far-flung north-east believe will give citizenship to large numbers of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

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

On Friday morning, the streets of Guwahati, the main city in Assam state, were quiet but the authorities were bracing for possible new protests later in the day.

A local government official said that Internet access in the city had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.

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

Several thousand troops have been drafted in to help police, who fired tear gas and charged demonstrators with batons as mobile Internet access was cut and curfews declared.

Security was increased at the Bangladeshi consulate in Guwahati after a vehicle in the consul's convoy was attacked Wednesday by mobs, the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka said.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), signed into law by the Indian president late on Thursday, allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but not Muslims.

For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights groups, it is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise India's 200 million Muslims. He denies this.

But many in India's north-east object for different reasons, fearing that immigrants from Bangladesh - Hindus and Muslims alike - will become citizens, taking jobs and weakening the local culture.

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