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Citizenship Bill Protests: Army In Tripura, 5,000 Personnel In Northeast

Violent protests have continued across parts of the North East for a third straight day over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that was tabled in the Rajya Sabha this afternoon. In response to requests from district officials, the Indian Army has deployed two columns to the Kanchanpur and Manu areas of Tripura while a third is on standby in Assam's Bongaigaon. One column consists of at least 70 soldiers and is led by one or two officers. According to a statement by Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand, Field Commanders and the Army HQ are monitoring the situation closely.

Additional deployments - of a Police QRT (Quick Response Team) in Assam's Dibrugarh district and up to 5,000 paramilitary personnel across the North East - have also been confirmed, as state and central governments brace for backlash against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill from student-led civil society organisations.

The North East has seen sustained and widespread protests against the Citizenship Bill; agitations were held earlier this year as well - in the run-up to the 2019 general election. Protesters, who include political leaders allied with the ruling BJP, have expressed concerns that refugees allowed by the bill could endanger identity and livelihood of indigenous people.

In Assam, protests erupted across different parts of the BJP-ruled state with the security forces resorting to lathi-charges in Dispur, Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Jorhat. At least 25 protesters, including women and some journalists and television crews, were injured. Earlier the influential North East Students' Organisations (NESO), backed by political parties, pledged to observe a 11-hour shutdown in the North East.

The Tripura government on Tuesday blocked mobile internet and SMS services across the state for 48 hours because of the protests. A two-month-old baby died while being taken to a hospital in Sepahijala as protests blocked traffic, police said.

The communications clampdown came into effect even as many demonstrators raised slogans against the centre in Agartala, demanding the state be kept out of the purview of the bill. Earlier, protesters set fire to a market with shops mostly owned by non-tribals in the northeast state's Dhalai district.

In view of the agitations, examinations in schools, colleges and universities in Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya have all been postponed.

Last week Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who led the centre's push on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday and did so again in the Rajya Sabha today, held extensive meetings with stakeholders in the North East, saying appropriate exceptions had been made and urging protesters to stand down.

Following from those meetings the draft version of the Citizenship Bill excludes tribal areas of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram, as well as the area under "The Inner Line" permit system.

The bill sailed through the Lok Sabha on Monday - by 334 votes to 104.

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