Guwahatians Speak about their Experience on 11th December
11 December, 10:00am
I came to office just like any other day. The previous day there was the Assam Bandh which was called in protest against the passage of the CAB in Lok Sabha. Things looked very normal following the bandh. We reached office by 10; I had taken the bus.
Very soon, there were groups of students marching on the road below our office, which is located on Dr B Baruah Road, Ulubari. The protests started off with hoards of marching students shouting slogans and who turned aggressive with whoever came in their path. Our office is located on the 4th floor of a building, which meant that we could see all that was happening below. A peaceful protest soon turned hostile with the girls who had taken the lead, bamboo sticks in their hands, hitting out and banging against everything in their way. These girls were livid and looked like they would have hurt anything that came in their way. Within a matter of minutes, all shops were shut down. All cars were stopped, roads were blocked and the sloganeering became even shriller. We heard sirens every 15 minutes which prompted all my colleagues to gather at the windows to catch a glimpse of what was happening.
Things took a turn for the worse when the protestors started causing destruction around the city. They burnt tires to start with and gathered whatever else that could be burnt or broken which included the newly mounted road dividers, advertising canvas from bus stands, hoardings, pole kiosks, traffic barricades, bamboos used in construction, etc. Within no time, the entire city was burning.
I don’t know how a crowd without a leader managed to orchestrate something as strategic. What should have been a non-violent show of the common man’s concern turned out to be a tactical demonstration of power by the protestors around the city when they managed to block the entry and exit points of every lane and by-lane around the city.
I left for home in the middle of the chaos when we thought things could get further worse. We rode in a group as we felt it would be safer. We soon realised that no amount of preparation could have prepared us to deal with what we encountered next. We got onto GS Road and it was as desolate as a ghost town from old western movies. We took the back alley roads once we approached Dona Planet as there were protestors up ahead who had blocked the main roads. Taking the back alley roads turned out to be as much of a hassle as taking the main road as the protestors had occupied and blocked them as well with raging fires. We had to manoeuvre around these blocks and finally we got to a point where we had to ride between two burning tyres.
While everything gave me a sense of anxiety and made my heart race, I noticed things that made me think as well. I saw children who were barely 10 treating the circumstances as a festival simply because they were not aware of the enormity of the situation and were allowed by the adults in their families to be a part of the gathering. They were celebrating the fires around them, they were dancing. I was not shocked by the lack of awareness among the crowd. I felt angry because of the unsafe situation they were being made a part of.
I reached home, safe. For the next few days I found myself hearing sirens and loud protests even when there weren’t. It was not a good feeling. There was a feeling of impending disaster. There still is.
11 December, 9:00am
9am on 11th December, a day like any other day. But there was a pale indication of how the day would pan out. Come noon and I got the first frantic call from my office. An angry mob, mostly consisting of seemingly college going students had taken out a protest march shouting slogans. The situation became worse news came that an unruly mob had barged into shops asking for the shutters to be pulled down, sending people into panic mode.
Due to the situation turning rapidly alarming, I left office early at around 2.45 PM. On my way home the experience was terrifying. I and my husband started walking from my office at Dr B Baruah Road to Lachit Nagar, as we hadn’t got our personal transport that day. From Lachit Nagar, we somehow managed to get a public transport which dropped us at ABC; as the road beyond was blocked by protesters.
From there, while walking towards my home, the scenes on GS Road were gory, reminiscent of the tales of the agitations and protests during the Assam Agitation of 1979-1985 as I had heard from my parents. The burnt timber and tyres on the roads filled the air with black smoke chocking the passers-by. Traffic came to a standstill.
While we were trying to find a safe passage, we saw the roads filled with burnt material and a line of vehicles parked one after the other. The whole GS Road was covered by a blanket of smoke.
Beyond Ganeshguri and the Janata Bhawan, the area was shielded with protestors; people were chanting slogans and demeaning the elected politicians. Effigies of politicians were also put on fire. In order to control the crowed the barricades were put up, but the stone pelters were still active and we somehow managed to reach home safely.