The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ethnic tinge in Assam arson

Kokrajhar/Dhubri, March 17: Ethnic tension put Kokrajhar and Dhubri districts on the simmer today with incidents of arson and violence being reported from various parts of the undivided Goalpara district.

Cracks have appeared among ethnic groups in undivided Goalpara, comprising Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar and Goalpara districts, over delimitation of electoral constituencies and linguistic controversies.

As a fallout of yesterday’s bandh called by an Adivasi outfit, a mob burned down eight shops in Kachugaon market in Kokrajhar district around 3 am.

In another incident, suspected supporters of the 96-hour bandh called by seven organisations representing the Koch Rajbongshis allegedly set a truck ablaze in Dhubri district late last night.

Though a police investigation is on to ascertain the motive behind the arson in the market, sources said suspected rebels of the Adivasi Cobra Militants of Assam had torched the shops. They wanted to teach the residents of the locality, an area with a mixed population, a lesson for defying yesterday’s 12-hour bandh called by the All Assam Adivasi Students Association of Assam against the proposed move to dereserve Kokrajhar parliamentary seat in the ongoing delimitation process.

The bandh had failed to evoke any response except in Adivasi-dominated areas. But the delimitation issue has stirred a hornets’ nest in the volatile Bodoland Territorial Area Districts. The Adivasi students association, however, denied having a hand in the arson. Kokrajhar police said security has been tightened in the area. “We are not ruling out anything at the moment,” superintendent of police Hiren Nath said.

In the other incident, a potato-laden truck was set ablaze near Halakura on National Highway 31, about 100 km from Chapor, the venue of the 69th session of the Asam Sahitya Sabha.

The Koch Rajbongshis are protesting against the sabha for allegedly refusing to recognise the contributions made by their language.

A welcome gate put up at Hatipota by the Congress, some 29 km from the venue of the session, was burned down by unidentified persons.

Despite tight security, local residents also pelted stones on private cars plying on the national highway. A few delegates, who were going to Chapor to participate in the second day’s programme of the sabha, were injured.

The session passed off peacefully today. The literary forum’s programmes were held according to schedule, though attendance was thin. Thirty-seven books published by the Dhubri Sahitya Sabha were also released.

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