Guwahati, Oct. 19: Slogan-shouting activists ran into a wall of security personnel when they tried to storm the seat of power today as part of their campaign for peace talks with Ulfa, but there was no mistaking the impact of the abortive “long march” on Dispur.
With Delhi supposedly taking recourse to Track-II diplomacy to revive the floundering peace process, the march by activists of the People’s Committee for Peace Initiatives in Assam added to the pressure on Dispur to do likewise.
The same organisation has called a statewide bandh tomorrow to pressure the government to halt army operations and release the jailed Ulfa leaders whom the outfit wants to involve in the peace process.
This morning, thousands of activists marched towards Dispur from different directions, only to be stopped by police and CRPF personnel strategically stationed at intersections across the sprawling capital city.
The police said over 1,000 protesters, including their leader Dilip Patgiri, were rounded up from Chandmari, Dispur and Bashista. “Anticipating trouble, we had deployed adequate CRPF and police personnel at sensitive spots. Riot-control vehicles were also kept ready,” additional superintendent of police (city) Rajen Singh said.
Patgiri, convenor of the peace committee and a member of the People’s Consultative Group formed by Ulfa, complained of police high-handedness. He accused the police of using force to crush a democratic protest. “But brute force cannot muzzle the voice of the people. We will continue our agitation through democratic means till our demands are fulfilled,” he said.
The peace committee is a conglomerate of 27 organisations.
The committee’s call for a 10-hour bandh from 6 am tomorrow has, however, come in for criticism from the Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad. The organisation has threatened to let loose its activists on the streets to thwart the strike.
Dispur has also asked all administrative departments, heads of departments and deputy commissioners to ensure that government services and work in offices are not disrupted. Absenteeism will be treated as leave without authorisation and the employees will face punishment.