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Tremors over seismic survey

Guwahati, Nov. 27: A rally against a proposed seismic survey for oil exploration on the Brahmaputra riverbed triggered law and order tremors today when the 1,000-strong crowd of protesters clashed with police near the District Library.

At least 20 people, including 12 women, were injured when police caned the protesters to prevent them from taking out a procession in defiance of prohibitory orders. The police also fired teargas shells to control the mob.

The protesters, who had converged under the banner of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity, turned violent when the police prevented them from marching to the deputy commissioner’s office to submit memoranda addressed to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and chief minister Tarun Gogoi, opposing Oil India Limited’s plan to conduct the seismic survey.

The police told them that Section 144 was in force and no such procession could be allowed without prior permission from the administration.

When the protesters tried to force ahead, the police and CRPF personnel deployed at the site resorted to lathicharge. Additional superintendent of police (city) Rajen Singh was manhandled in the melee.

Some of the injured were admitted to Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital.

Police confined the protesters, barring those injured, at Lakhidhar Bora Kshetra near the library and released them only in the evening.

“Our demonstration was a peaceful one, but the police beat us mercilessly and fired tear gas shells. This is an attempt to throttle the voice of the common people,” one of the protesters, Prafulla Saikia, said.

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity fears that a seismic survey and subsequent oil exploration on the riverbed will cause irreversible environmental damage.

The All Assam Students’ Union and the proscribed Ulfa have also opposed the proposed survey.

Akhil Gogoi, secretary of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity, said the seismic survey might have a negative impact on a river known for its volatile and unpredictable behaviour.

OIL had issued a statement through newspapers, claiming that the proposed survey would not have any impact on the river system or the ecology of the nearby areas. The company also said that no chemicals would be used during the survey to ensure that the waters of the river are not polluted.

Conservationists from across the globe have urged the Centre not to allow OIL to conduct the seismic survey.

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