As Assam gets rocked by protests, Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe may cancel his visit

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may cancel his visit to India for an annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that was to be held in Guwahati over the weekend against the backdrop of violent protests in Assam’s main city over changes to the country’s citizenship law, news agency Reuters has said, quoting Japan’s Jiji Press.

Hindustan Times had earlier reported on uncertainty around the summit.

Protests had broken out in parts of the north-eastern states this week as Parliament debated changes to the citizenship law that would let immigrants of faiths others than Islam from three neighbouring countries to gain Indian citizenship. By the time the bill received the presidential assent late Thursday evening, the protests had spread and led to at least two deaths.

A Japanese team that went to Guwahati to make a final assessment had been confined to its hotel on Thursday as the protests continued and flights were affected. Some of the banners and hoardings put up to welcome Abe were vandalised and burnt by protestors.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga later said that there was a need to pay close attention to local conditions, according to a Bloomberg report.

People familiar with developments on both sides had indicated on Thursday that there was a strong possibility of the meeting being called off as there was not enough hotel space in Delhi to accommodate the large delegation that would have accompanied Abe if the venue for the annual summit was shifted out of Guwahati.

India and Japan had officially announced December 15-17 as the dates for Abe’s visit but both sides had refrained from naming the venue. Officials from both sides had confirmed to HT that Guwahati was to be the venue.

Protests over the citizenship law, however, may force the governments to revisit the schedule.

Assam has been hit the most by the violence, and the subsequent lockdown. Military reinforcements were also sent and a near-total ban on internet services clamped in some regions on Thursday.

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