Guwahati, July 25: Seven student activists were today killed in police firing in Assam’s Darrang district following mob violence during a 12-hour bandh called by an Adivasi organisation.
Inspector-general of police (law and order) S.B. Kakoti said the firing was provoked by the mob, which pelted the police personnel with stones and refused to disperse.
Nine persons were injured in the incident, which occurred near Paneri tea estate.
Kakoti said the police team was trying to prevent members of the All-Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam from forcibly closing down shops at Kachuvil, near the tea estate.
“They directed their anger at the police team on being asked to disperse. The police personnel had no option but to open fire,” Kakoti said.
The police reached the spot after shopkeepers raised an alarm. As they began rounding up the protesters, a few of them rushed to the Paneri tea estate and sought help from the Adivasi garden labourers.
A mob gathered in the area within minutes and started pelting stones, prompting the police to open fire.
Deputy inspector-general (northern range) Pradeep Kumar said over phone from Tezpur that three persons died on the spot, while four succumbed to injuries on the way to hospital. Six of the injured were shifted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
There was trouble in Dibrugarh district, too, with members of the same organisation attacking newspaper vans and blocking roads to enforce the bandh.
In adjacent Tinsukia district, 16 Adivasi activists were arrested for pelting vehicles with stones. Life was paralysed by the bandh in the Adivasi-inhabited areas of both Upper Assam districts.
The Adivasi student organisation had called the 12-hour statewide bandh to pressure the Assam government into granting Scheduled Tribe status to the community and scrapping the accord with the Bodo Liberation Tigers. The organisation threatened to start a rail roko programme if its demands were not fulfilled.
The Opposition is planning to raise the matter during the monsoon session of the Assembly, beginning on August 4. The firing on protesters could dominate the first day’s proceedings, sources said.