| Tezpur SP Apurba Jibon Baruah (in a sweater) inspects the security arrangements. Picture by Eastern Projections
Tezpur/Dibrugarh, Jan. 2: Arson and police-student clashes marked the first bandh of the New Year in Assam with protesters in Sonitpur district damaging vehicles and hurling stones at security personnel in a show of frustration at the lukewarm public response to their agitation.
The All Assam Bengali Chatra Yuba Federation had called the 12-hour statewide bandh to protest the delay in reconstituting the Linguistic Minority Development Board and release of funds.
Trouble began when the bandh supporters gathered to block traffic on National Highway 52, which connects Sonitpur district with Lakhimpur.
The highway also links the state with Arunachal Pradesh.
Police fired several rounds in the air near Dighali village, 1 km from Balipara, after hundreds of student activists went on the rampage. Three CRPF personnel, two policemen and a girl were wounded in the violence.
The student activists also targeted vehicles, including one owned by the Arunachal Pradesh government. Police officials said at least six vehicles were damaged in the burst of arson.
A team of police officials rushed from Tezpur, the district headquarters, to Balipara on being informed about the incident.
Movement of traffic resumed after firing in the air forced the protesters to disperse.
The police arrested 12 protesters but kept them in custody only for a few hours.
A senior official of the district administration said the army was requested to be on standby as a precautionary step. The headquarters of the army’s 4 Corps is in Tezpur.
Official reports said the bandh did not disrupt work in the oil, coal and tea industries. Although attendance in government offices across Assam was lower than normal, it was attributed more to the “holiday mood” than the 12-hour bandh.
In Upper Assam, most business establishments functioned normally. Long-distance buses reached their destinations without any disruptions.
Life in most towns, especially Dibrugarh, was subdued mainly because of the chilly weather.