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Kakopathar opens door to parties

Dibrugarh, March 19: The conglomerate of organisations that had clamped a ban on electioneering in Kakopathar today threw the gates open for parties to step into the hotbed of anti-army protests, but with a warning: no political games, please, over the Ajit Mahanta custody death and its fallout.

Birinchi Neog, chief convener of the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives, said the decision to allow electioneering in Kakopathar was taken in deference to requests by various political parties, which promised not to re-ignite the flames that had enveloped the area last month.

“We will strictly monitor the conduct of all political parties which campaign in Kakopathar. If we find anyone uttering a single word on the issue, we will immediately prevent them ' through democratic means ' from continuing the campaign,” he said.

Kakopathar, in Tinsukia district, became the flashpoint of an intense campaign against alleged army excesses when a village youth from the area died in custody. The army claimed he had links with militants and that he died after falling and seriously injuring himself during an attempt to escape.

On February 10, a procession of around 20,000 people turned violent, leading to police firing in which eight protesters died. A CRPF jawan in the security contingent was lynched by a mob.

Three trusted lieutenants of chief minister Tarun Gogoi ' Pradyut Bordoloi, Rockybul Hussain and Himanta Biswa Sarma ' were almost chased away from Kakopathar in the aftermath of the incident. Gogoi himself faced abuse from relatives of the injured when he went to the Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh to enquire about their condition.

Neog said the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives had banned electioneering in the area primarily because political leaders who found no time to meet Ajit’s family after his death on February 6 started making a beeline to Kakopathar when the issue became bigger.

The committee has representatives of more than 20 organisations, including associations of the Motok, Tai Ahom, Moran and tea tribes.

Several thousand people poured into Kakopathar this morning to attend a public adya shraddha for Ajit and the eight victims of the police firing on protesters. Special prayers were held at the Dirak Chariali playground, where nine concrete memorials to those killed have been constructed. Representatives of the Ulfa-constituted People’s Consultative Group and various organisations were in the gathering.

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