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Cong takes up student gauntlet

Guwahati, Nov. 3: The Congress today vowed to take the battle over the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act to the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), setting the stage for street clashes if the union goes ahead with its threat to disrupt the Indo-Asean car rally.

Fuming over Delhi's decision to retain the act, the AASU had accused the Prime Minister of ignoring Assam's interests and threatened to block the rally, which he is scheduled to flag off in Guwahati on November 22.

Though the Congress top guns, including AICC leader Digvijay Singh, publicly put the onus of foiling the AASU agitation on the administration, there are indications that the party intends to join the fray. A senior Congress member said party workers could take to the streets to prevent student activists from blocking the rally.

'If the AASU puts up roadblocks, our workers will remove them. If AASU activists themselves squat on the road, we will forcibly remove them, too,' he said.

The remark was made just after Singh, who is the AICC trouble-shooter for Assam, said the administration would 'tackle' the problem.

'The rally will be held successfully. It is a matter of prestige for the state as well as the central government because it is an international event,' the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said.

He accused the BJP and the AGP of raking up the dispute over the IM(DT) Act because they could not find any other issue.

'When they were in power in the state and at the Centre, neither the AGP nor the BJP did anything to scrap the act. They are now raking up the issue only because they do not have any other topic to talk about.'

Singh claimed the IM(DT) Act had been successfully used to 'check illegal influx and at the same time protect Indian citizens from harassment'.

The AASU, on the other hand, has long been blaming the legislation for the growth of the state's illegal migrant population.

The union said in a statement tonight that it was determined to foil the Indo-Asean car rally 'at any cost' to prove 'we are very serious when it comes to safeguarding the state from becoming a part of greater Bangladesh'.

AASU general secretary Amiyo Kumar Bhuyan had told the media yesterday that the agitation would 'have a telling effect' on the Prime Minister, whom he accused of consenting to visit the state 'not out of love for the people of Assam, but only to flag off the rally'.

Had he cared for the state's welfare, Singh would have supported the campaign against the IM(DT) Act and paid a visit when over 200 people perished in flash floods in Goalpara, Bhuyan said.

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