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Protocol tussle on Independence Day
- Officials of divided Kamrup line up behind Gogoi during parade

Guwahati, Aug. 16: Dispur had to take recourse to a “breach of protocol” during its official Independence Day function to avoid washing dirty linen before the patriotic public, gathered in large numbers at the historic Judges Field. The people had braved the diktat of the Northeast’s militant outfits to “boycott” the celebrations.

In a surprising departure from a decades-old practice, DCs and SPs of Kamrup (rural) and Kamrup (metropolitan) escorted chief minister Tarun Gogoi to the dais for hoisting the Tricolour and then lined up behind him when he took the salute during the march past.

On the dais, Gogoi stood in the middle with the SP and DC of Kamrup (metropolitan), A.K. Absar Hazarika and H.C. Nath, respectively to his left and their Kamrup (rural) counterparts to his right.

Kamrup was bifurcated last year amid stiff opposition from various organisations who claimed it would lead to administrative inconvenience. Samir Sinha was named DC of Kamrup (rural) while P.C. Bordoloi took over as SP. A 10-hour district bandh called by the Opposition Asom Gana Parishad on December 28 last year evoked spontaneous and almost total response.

“Had the state government gone by convention, it would have been the privilege and prerogative of the DC and SP of Kamrup (metropolitan) to escort Gogoi as the venue of the function falls in Kamrup (metropolitan),” a Janata Bhavan source pointed out.

The presence of the four top officials on the dais yesterday became the topic of animated debate about protocol as the official invitation was extended by Hazarika.

Sources said though the jurisdiction of the Kamrup (rural) district excludes areas under Kamrup (metropolitan), the office of its deputy commissioner is located in the city. This reportedly motivated Sinha to move the state government to allow him to escort the chief minister.

“Though Judges Field falls under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan DC, the presence of both the top officials of the rural district saw a compromise with tradition as no one wanted the auspicious occasion to get mired in controversy,” a senior government official said.

Many officials said they “do not see much logic” in Sinha and Bordoloi’s argument. They pointed out that when the capital of Assam was shifted from Shillong to Guwahati after the bifurcation of Assam, many Assam government offices remained there and moved out gradually. “But the Assam government officers there never interfered with functions organised by the Meghalaya government. They never sought any kind of privilege,” one of them argued.

Though a few bureaucrats even went to the extent of describing the break from tradition as a violation of protocol defined in the Blue Book, principal secretary (general administration department) P.P. Verma defended the presence of the four officials on the dais. He said there were no hard and fast rules about the jurisdiction and designation of the officials entrusted with the responsibility of escorting the VIP to the dais during official functions.

However, he did admit that the presence of DCs and SPs of two districts escorting the chief minister was “a departure from convention”.

The official invitation clearly stated that the celebrations were organised under the auspices of the metropolitan district.

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